Questions About Characters
How does Fabiola's attitude toward her family change?
- When Fabiola first arrives in America, she does not feel comfortable or at home with her family members. She often compares this new life to her life in Haiti and wishes she were there with her mother. Do you think that Fabiola's attitude towards her cousins and aunt change as the novel progresses? If so, how?
- What character growth or event(s) causes this change?
Why is Bag Leg important?
- Throughout the novel, Fabiola relies on Bad Leg’s songs to guide her, and the songs also provide readers with sources of foreshadowing. How does the character Bad Leg shape the path of the story’s narrative?
What is the significance of the "Bees" and Fabiola's role with them?
- Fabiola's cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Pri, are referred to as the "Three Bees" in their high school and neighborhood. Chantal is the brains, Donna is the beauty, and Pri is the brawn. Fabiola initially resists being associated with the trio, but she eventually accepts the title of the brave and fourth Bee. What leads her to this acceptance, and what does this mean for Fabiola as a person?
How does Dray's interlude chapter contribute to his character?
- When you read Dray’s chapter about his life, did it change your attitude towards him? If so, how?
- Did it make you more sympathetic to his character?
- What explanations does it offer for the novel's conflict and for Dray's actions?
What are the implications of Kasim's fate?
- How does the character arc of Kasim change how we might view Fabiola’s final decisions?
- Why is it significant that Fabiola does not get a chance to grieve Kasim like Donna grieves Dray?
Questions about Symbols and Themes
What do American Street and Joy Road symbolize?
- Fabiola constantly finds herself stuck at the intersection of American Street and Joy Road. In Chapter 11, she tells us, “My two paths meet at this corner, and it seems like I have to choose one.” What do you think that each avenue symbolizes for Fabiola? Based on the ending of the novel, which path do you think she chooses?
How is the image of an earthquake used in the novel?
- Fabiola was in Haiti when the country experienced a terrible earthquake. She makes reference to this event throughout the novel and described herself as different forces of nature. How is the image of an earthquake used as a metaphor or framework for Fabiola throughout the narrative? Are there other references to natural events?
How is transgenerational trauma explored in American Street?
- Interlude chapters like "Drayton's Story" and "The Story of 8800 American Street" describe a history of violence and trauma in the environment and families of the novel's characters. How is transgenerational trauma explored throughout American Street?
- How does the transgenerational trauma relate to the plight of immigrants? How are the two struggles intertwined?
How is water utilized as a common motif?
- Water in a recurring symbol in American Street. What are the various ways it is utilized, and is there a common thread throughout these uses?
Questions about Immigration and Culture
How are identity and cultural ties explored?
- Many characters either choose to change or are encouraged to change their behaviors as a result of immigrating. For example, Fabiola is not allowed to speak Creole in her aunt's house. So, how does Zoboi explore identity and cultural ties in the novel?
- How do characters maintain connections with their home cultures? Why do they do this?
How does Fabiola's religion impact her decisions?
- Fabiola often draws parallels between people in her life and her spirit guides. For example, she compares Donna to Ezili-Danto. How does this religious influence shape her perception of others and their actions? How does this affect her own decisions?
Is this story similar to those of other immigrants?
- American Street explores Haitian culture through Fabiola’s religious practices and the experiences of her family members. Even so, this novel is largely an immigrant one, focusing on the experience of Fabiola and her mother’s first few months in America. How is this story, as a story of Haitian-American immigrants, similar to the stories of other immigrants in Detroit? Other American cities?
Questions about the Author's Choices
Why is American Street the title?
- Much like Fabiola, Ibi Zoboi had a choice between Joy Road and American Street. Why do you think the author chose to title the book American Street as opposed to Joy Road?
- What would be an appropriate title for the novel if if were neither Joy Road nor American Street?
- What does the title being American Street tell you as a reader? Is it indicative of Fabiola's choices?
What is the purpose of writing this book?
- This novel touches on many complex and politically relevant issues such as immigration, drugs, religion, police violence, toxic relationships, and family loyalty in a very empathetic way. What do these elements reveal (if anything) about Zoboi’s purpose in writing this book?
Why do we never see Fabiola and her mother reunite?
- Fabiola missing her mother is at the core of American Street's events and Fabiola's character as a whole. With so much emphasis put on Fabiola's desire and plans to reunite with her mother, why did Zoboi choose not to show a scene reuniting them?
- How does this affect the ending of the novel? Is it satisfying?
Questions about the Reader's Interpretation
How does vodou alter the book's genre?
- Vodou has an important presence both in Fabiola’s life and the narrative of American Street. How does it alter your perception of the book’s genre? Do inexplicable events seem mystical because the story is told from Fabiola’s perspective, or are they actually happening?
Is this story realistic?
- Through Fabuola’s spiritual perspective, this novel presents elements of magical realism as the novel progresses. However, most of the novel grounds itself in the depiction of a specific culture in Detroit. Does the novel’s presentation of life in America and its characters seem realistic to you? Consider how the character’s interact, speak, and interact with the world that Zoboi has built.
What is relatable to your own life in the novel?
- This novel explores social and cultural identities, especially what it means to be yourself in a different or new environment. Given that Fabiola has to find common ground with the world of Detroit, what aspects of Fabiola’s life are relatable to you?
- Which ones are less so, or what did you have difficulty understanding on a personal level?
What other character's perspective would you like to read the story in?
- While there are short chapters that give the stories of characters other than Fabiola in the novel, we only witness the events from her perspective. If you could hear this story from another character’s point of view, who would you choose? Why?
- How would altering the point of view change the impact or meaning of the book?
Jenny Evans, Samantha Simon, Sarra Sundstrom ’19