This month, Bustle's American Woman Book Club is reading American Street by Ibi Zoboi, a timely coming-of-age novel that explores themes of immigration, family, and of course, growing up. Ibi Zoboi writes with a powerful command of both realism and fantasy, producing lines packed with emotional intensity and lyrical honesty. If you read and loved American Street, be sure to join Bustle and author Ibi Zoboi for an event on March 30 at Strand Book Store in New York City.
If you haven't read it yet, here's some info: the novel follows Fabiola Toussaint, a teenager from Haiti who is forced to navigate her new home, Detroit, by herself after her mother is detained in New Jersey by U.S. Immigration. She and her mother had a clear impression of The American Dream: glittering streets and beautiful people on the corner of American Street and Joy Street. They imagined "une belle vie." What Fabiola finds instead are three loud American cousins she has never met before and an Aunt that immediately forbids her from speaking Creole. But as she slowly adjusts to the complicated dynamics of public school, new friends, and boys, Fabiola learns about the true, complicated meaning of the American Dream.
Ibi Zoboi tells Fabiola's story with a raw honesty that heightens the emotional stakes of the story. Heartbreaking and important, this book is a must-read for people of all ages. Still not convinced? Here are 15 quotes from the novel that will inspire you to read this book right now:
1“This is the beginning of the good life. Une belle vie.”
2“So trying to come to America from the wrong country is a crime?”
3"Child, this is Detroit. Ain’t no Papa Legba hanging out on corners. Only dealers and junkies . . . You’ll figure it out."
4“We see the magic in everything, in all people.”
5“We will get my Manman. I exhale deep as we leave the airport. It feels like I’m leaving part of me behind – a leg, an arm. My whole heart.”
6“I look down at America— its vastness resembling a huge mountain. I felt as if I was just a pebble in the valley.”
7. “...as long as you have a bougie heart, you can aim for the finer things in life.”
8“When she turns on the light, the first thing to greet me are the shelves and shelves of books and more books. I want to stop and hug her and give her a big kiss on the cheek. With this many books I can make this place my home.”
9“I call the spirit guides to bend the time and space between where I’m standing and wherever my mother is. Maybe everything is happening for a reason. Maybe this was the wrong thing to do. Maybe we should go back.”
10“You told me to trust every vision, every tingling of my skin, every ringing in my ear, every inch in my palms. They’re all signs. They’re all the language of the Iwas."
11"I pray that Manman will get to taste this cold, free air before she rests her eyes tonight, wherever they are keeping her. And then tomorrow, she will come to this side of the glass, where there is good work that will make her hold her head up with dignity, where she will be proud to send me to school for free, and where we will build a good, brand-new life. Une belle vie, as she always promises, hoping that here she would be free to take her sister's hand and touch the moon."
12“If you had told me to go alone, you knew that I would never agree to it. But this is how you raised me, Manman. You raised me to be like another part of you–another arm or leg. Even as you kept telling me that I’m becoming a woman, you never let me go out into the world to be free. Or maybe I took the place of the sister you left behind. You raised me like this, so I cannot go on with my own life without you."
13"You can’t go back to Haiti. You have to come to this side because this new family of mine is both familiar and strange–just like how I am American by birth and Haitian by blood, bones, and tears. Familiar and strange.”
14“But then I realize that everyone is climbing their own mountain here in America. They are tall and mighty and they live in the hearts and everyday lives of the people.”
15“I am brave. No one has to tell me this. I know it for myself.”