Review of American Street

zoboi_american streetAmerican Street
by Ibi Zoboi
High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    330 pp.
2/17    978-0-06-247304-2    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-247306-6     $9.99

Immediately after landing in New York from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. Immigration. Fabiola must continue the journey alone to her aunt and cousins in Detroit, specifically to the intersection of American Street and Joy Road. Quickly discovering her location to be a cruel misnomer, Fabiola receives a crash course in cultural differences from her three cousins Chantal, Primadonna, and Princess, known as “The Three Bees.” In the midst of a new friendship and romance, Fabiola learns her family is involved in the drug trade. An undercover cop offers Fabiola her mother’s release if Fabiola provides information regarding the drug sales. Throughout the story, Fabiola turns to her Vodou faith, praying to her lwas, or spirit guides, to reunite her mother with the family. It would appear the guides answer, making themselves known in a series of remarkable events, and leading Fabiola to a decision that will alter the lives of all those she loves. Through her first-person narrative, Fabiola makes plain to readers the range of emotions found in the immigrant experience, particularly the heartache of separation from a loved one. Interspersed are the stories of Fabiola’s cousins, her aunt, and other characters, as they negotiate both their “joyous moments” and their sadness. Zoboi’s young adult debut is equal parts gritty and transcendent.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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