50 pages 1 hour read

Ibi Zoboi

American Street

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


American Street is a contemporary coming-of-age novel by Haitian American young adult author Ibi Zoboi. It was published in 2017 and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature the same year.

Plot Summary

American Street tells the story of a teenage Haitian immigrant named Fabiola who moves back home to the United States, her country of birth. As she and her mother are reentering the US, immigrant authorities seize Fabiola’s mother, as they believe that she plans to overstay her visa and live permanently in the US. Alone, Fabiola continues on to Detroit to move in with her cousins—Pri, Donna, and Chantal—and her Aunt (Matant) Jo. They live in a house on the corner of American Street and Joy Road. Fabiola is devastated and tries to persuade her aunt to free her mother from immigrant detention, but her aunt says that there is nothing to be done. Fabiola finds Detroit cold and devoid of life; she misses life back home with her friends and mother in Haiti. She often feels alone despite being surrounded by family.

Fabiola enrolls in school and struggles to adjust to American culture, which is simultaneously filled with money and poverty, along with an abundance of unhappiness. She grows close to her cousins, who are known around the school as the “Three Bees” because they protect each other fiercely. Pri is the brawn of the group, Chantal is the brains, and Donna is the beauty. Fabiola makes friends with a classmate who helps her improve her grades. She slowly falls in love with a boy named Kasim, who is the best friend of Donna’s drug dealer boyfriend, Dray. Dray can be cruel and beats Donna.

One day, Fabiola is approached by a detective. The detective says that she can secure the release of Fabiola’s mother in exchange for information that can connect Dray to a party in the wealthy neighborhood of Grosse Pointe Park. A white girl died at a party in that neighborhood from a drug overdose, and the cops believe Dray was involved. Fabiola undertakes a secret mission to expose Dray, but she learns that her cousins sold the drugs that led to the girl’s death. Her cousin Chantal explains that Fabiola’s aunt works as a loan shark for drug dealers, and that the cousins got involved in dealing drugs to make extra money.

Fabiola cannot tell the detective about her cousins, so she concocts a ploy to get Dray to sell drugs at a party so the cops will arrest him. However, Kasim ends up at the party to sell the drugs on Dray’s behalf. Fabiola realizes this and rushes to the party, where the cops have killed Kasim. Fabiola is heartbroken, but the detective arranges for her mother to be released. Fabiola, her aunt, and her cousins leave Detroit for good and make their way to New Jersey to pick up Fabiola’s mother. Fabiola is now the “Fourth Bee.” She is the “brave” one.