2017 National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature

Ibi Zoboi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi Ibi Zoboi
American Street
(Balzer + Bray / HarperCollinsPublishers)
ISBN: 9780062473042

National Book Foundation: What did you learn during the process of writing this book?
Ibi Zoboi: Because I was writing about black children engaged in violence and criminality, I had to sink deep into the skin of every single one of my characters. I was so concerned about making them fully human on the page. I learned that I had to love every bad thing. I had to be tender with the anger and hurt. So writing American Street was not a cerebral exercise on what those kids are going through. I learned how to make it a sort of autobiography of every part of myself so that each character is whole and complete.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Zoboi: The Flatbush Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is one of my absolute favorite places. It’s in the heart of my very lively Caribbean neighborhood, and for a number of years, I’ve used their community spaces to host writing workshops for local teens.

judges' citation

A loving, lyrical, and poignant epic about immigrating to the United States, American Street chronicles Fabiola Toussaint’s struggle to navigate her new life in Detroit. On the one hand, it is a page-turning story of survival and tenacity up against the pressures of crime and uncertainty, and on the other, it is a fresh, nuanced paean to the rich, magical reality undergirding every intersection of our country. American Street reminds us that all of America lives and breathes with the spirits and cultures of the people who’ve emigrated here from around the world.


On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—the good life. But after leaving Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud, American cousins—Chantal, Donna and Princess—the grittiness of Detroit’s west side, a new school, and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola must learn that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

About the Author

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and immigrated to the U.S. when she was four years old. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she was a recipient of the Norma Fox Mazer Award. Her award-winning and Pushcart-nominated writing has been published in Haiti Noir, the Caribbean Writer, the New York Times Book Review, The Horn Book magazine, and The Rumpus, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three children. American Street is her first novel.


- WEBSITE: ibizoboi.net

- TWITTER: @ibizoboi

- FACEBOOK: facebook.com/izoboi

- INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/ibizoboi

(Photo credit: Joseph Zoboi)


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