Monday, 8 May 2017

American Street

Read the World: Haiti


Fabiola is travelling from Haiti to live with her aunt and cousins in Detroit when her mother is detained by immigration. Her new home is on the intersection of American and Joy but her new life is far from perfect. Her new family always seem to have money despite never working and they don't appear to be doing much to help free her mother.

Suddenly, I feel so alone in this house. I am surrounded by family, but none of them really knows me or understands what happened to me today.

I liked how elements of Vodou were interwoven into a contemporary tale. It's left up to the reader to decide whether or not the man on the corner is really Papa Legba or if Fabiola is just projecting her beliefs onto him. Still, she believes in him and she takes guidance from the songs he sings. She also sees her deities in other characters, those who represent the same things as them.

In Vodou, death is seen as a transition from one life to another, and Fabiola talks to Papa Legba about crossing over. Emigrating is a huge transition too, and she doesn't feel like she can settle in her new life until her mother is freed from the detention centre. In a way she is seeking help from the spirits to help her mother cross over, not to the afterlife but to America.

Bottom line: no one around here is gonna talk. So this all becomes like some sort of chaotic cycle. Bad people stay on the streets, good people die; bad people make a shitload of money, good people have to scrape pennies.

Vodou has got so mixed up in popular culture with the fictional depiction voodoo, it's great to see a book from a Haitian author (albeit one who left Haiti as a little girl). You'll be pleased to hear, there's not a single doll or zombie in sight.

It also shows a little how immigration isn't a magic ticket to a better life. Immigrants often end up in communities with existing problems. Fabiola brushes up against the drug culture in her neighbourhood. As soon as she is in her new home she hears how the cops are taking interest in the overdose of a white girl. She sees how being on the wrong side of the business is dangerous as much as being on the right side provides protection of a kind.

I did feel Fabiola's voice was a little younger sounding than sixteen but this might be intentional to portray her naivety. No one has told her about the immigration process and that there was a real danger her mother would be detained. She doesn't seem to understand what being detained even means.

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Book Source: Purchased

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