American Street Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Keywords: 
Community
Conflict Resolution
Diverse Communities
Diversity
divlit
Immigration
Literature
Problem-solving
Refugees
by Ibi Zoboi - A guide for youth, parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this novel. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build understanding of the story of immigrants, as well as explore the idea of social justice and what it means in the current world they are living. Warning: strong language

This is the story of Fabiola Toussaint, a Haitian immigrant who moves with her aunt and cousins to Detroit, on the corner of American Street and Joy Road. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, so Fabiola finds herself having to navigate her new world with her cousins Chantal, Primadonna, and Princess. Fabiola is abruptly thrown into an entirely new world, full of challenges and pitfalls in her new home, school, and on the street.  

Just as Fabiola begins to become acclimated to her new world, making friends, understanding school, and finding love, a dangerous proposition presents itself from a detective investigating a high-profile case. Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream 

Literature Guide by Anthony Salciccioli

Pre-Reading 

WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE THROUGHOUT THE BOOK. 

Ask: 

  • Fabiola’s mother promised that life in America would be, “une belle vie.” or the good life. What do you consider constitutes the good life? What does your American Dream look like?  
  • What challenges face immigrants as they assimilate into American culture? Does your own family have a story of immigration to the United States?  
  • How do you demonstrate loyalty? Who are the people in your life that you are loyal to? At what point, if any, would you lose your loyalty toward them?  

Show:

  • The United States is a nation comprised of immigrants. However, throughout its history, there have been varying periods of high-immigration and low-immigration. Government policy and economic need is at the root of this. Show this website with trends. 

Connect: 

  • Historically, there were real-estate practices nicknamed, “red-lining” that kept communities segregated. In the book, we see this divide between Detroit and Grosse Pointe. These practices, although outlawed today, still very much affect the United States. Discuss the long term impact of this practice. 

During Reading 

Ask:

  • What were the various sacrifices that Uncle Philip, Matant Jo, and Manman made in order to make it to the Unites States? Is sacrifice a universal part of the immigrant experience? 
  • What are some of the similarities between Detroit, Michigan and Port-au-Prince, Haiti? How do they differ? 
  • How would you describe each of the Three Bees : Chantal, Primadonna (Donna), and Princess? Which one of their characters do you most identify with and why?  

Show:

Look at a map of Detroit and find the locations mentioned in the book.

Connect:

  • How did you feel about Kasim when you first met him? Did you trust him? What about Dray? How were Kasim and Dray the same? How were they different? 
  • Describe the different forms of fighting that take place throughout the novel. What are the various reasons that the characters are involved in fighting? Do you think they have a choice about if they would want to fight or back down? Why or why not? 

 

After Reading 

Ask:

  • Describe what happens at the party in Gross Pointe Park. How would you react in that situation? Would you have trusted Detective Stevens? Why or why not? 
  • How do you think Fabiola changes over the course of the novel? What were some of the events that facilitated those changes? 
  • Explain the significance of this quote: “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.” 

Show: 

This is a video of Ibi Zoboi speaking to PBS at the Miami Book Fair. Watch portions, or the entirety of this talk and discuss how it relates to the book.

Connect: 

Visit Learning to Give and learn about what it entails for immigrants to become naturalized citizens.  

 

Activities 

  • Read about the current situation of immigrants/refuges coming to the United States. What are their needs? 
  • Engage in an act that helps refugees or immigrants. You and your classmates can make a difference.  
  • Create a survey to learn about the diversity within your own school. What places of origin (heritage) are represented? What languages are spoken in homes? What traditions are continued from heritage? 
  • Learn about the culture and economy of Haiti and create a story using video.
  • Write your family's immigration story.