Looking for a diverse read? Ibi Zoboi’s newest novel American Street certainly falls in that category. In the novel Fabiola Toussaint, a Haitian-American teen who’s separated from her mother as a result of a traveling visa violation, works to find herself on Detroit’s streets.
Kreyolicious: You wrote a picture book before. How did the book-writing process differ from that genre to the YA genre?
Ibi Zoboi: It’s very different. Picture books are much harder. The writer has to tell a story in much fewer words. I have so much respect for picture book writers. Even though it was an ABC book (A is For Haiti), I had to put the same amount of thought and care as I would for a novel. It was edited by Edwidge Danticat who had some very good feedback.
Above: A book launch party with Haiti Cultural Exchange, moderated by Haitian Kreyol Language Institute founder Wynnie Lamour.
Kreyolicious: As a Haitian-American writing about Haiti and Haitian culture, what were your goals in writing this novel?
Ibi Zoboi: I wanted to humanize every single character. I covered a lot of issues because this is the reality of so many of our lives. If we are immigrants, we are also black girls in America, we are also dealing with poverty, urban issues, underfunded schools, loving black boys, caring for sick family members, navigating relationships with other girls, dealing with our hair and body. We are much more than Haitian or Haitian-Americans. We carry loads on our backs, and through this story, I unpacked each of them.
Kreyolicious: What do you think of the current multicultural book scene right now?
Ibi Zoboi: It’s getting better. Though I want more love, fluff, magic, joy, comedy, and adventure to balance out the pain and trauma.
Kreyolicious: Do you see yourself writing another book?
Ibi Zoboi: Yes, I’m writing other books now. I have two more novels under contract, a non-fiction book, and I’m editing an anthology.