I was floored by this one. And it sent me over the moon. Simultaneously.

I first discovered Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! in an Afrocentric book store in Green Acres Mall near my hometown of Cambria Heights, Queens. It was 1998 and I had never heard of her nor her books. All I saw was a pretty black woman on the cover, leaning in, as if to whisper to her potential reader, “Krik!” This is how Haitian storytellers begin their tales. At that time, I had only been vaguely familiar with that term. My connection to Haitian storytelling has always been through my family’s heated discussions about Haitian politics and the usual “the-way-things-were-back-home” conversations that’s so prevalent in immigrant households. I think I read the whole book in two days. And I’m sure I held the it close to my heart seconds after reading the very last page. It had a profound impact on me as a Haitian immigrant. It unveiled so many secrets. I had already wanted to be a writer by then, but that book let me know that my Haitian immigrant stories truly mattered.

Weeks later, my mother was watching Oprah when she announced her book club selection. At that time, Oprah’s Book Club was ginormous. Everybody, I mean, everybody read whatever was on Oprah’s Book Club. I nearly lost my breath when she said Edwidge Danticat’s name. I had just read her book! But I had not heard of Breath, Eyes, Memory.

Of course, I wrote a detailed, heartfelt letter to Oprah as to why I should be featured on her televised book club discussion. I had to meet Edwidge Danticat!

I didn’t make it onto Oprah, but I did eventually meet Edwidge. And we’ve worked together on a couple of projects–Haiti Noir and One Moore Book’s Haiti Series. I am so incredibly grateful for her, and her many books. And I am truly humbled by her thoughts on my debut novel about a Haitian immigrant.

“A rough landing for a young Haitian girl is viscerally and powerfully portrayed in Ibi Zoboi’s impressive and remarkable first young adult novel. Reminiscent of S.E. Hinton’s classic, The Outsiders, American Street is about young people losing and finding their way, as well as a family coming apart then together again across the cultural, economic, social, and spiritual chasms that is at the core of many of today’s heartrending and harrowing immigration stories.”

-EDWIDGE DANTICAT, New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist

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I’m taking great care in revealing these blurbs one by one because each author has made room in their busy schedules to read, examine, and comment on this story. Their work touches on the themes or aesthetics in my own work, and I want to take a moment to explore those.

Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap blew me away! I’m a deep lover of mythology and peeling away at quiet, subtle magic in the most fractured corners of our world. This is where the very bones of human suffering, and joy, and love exist. While Bone Gap is a nod to the Greek Persephone and Demeter story, American Street is a very slight nod to what I think is the greatest mythological love story ever (hint, hint: It’s Egyptian). I also delve into the Vodou pantheon, and my beloved Papa Legba plays a huge role. Tiny bit of spoilers here, but there’s so much more!

(Again, the background image is a small slice of the full cover. Yes, lots of color! And chaos.)

Thank you to Laura Ruby for this tip of the hat to my dear Papa Legba.

“Ibi Zoboi brings us a Detroit rarely seen: full of wandering spirits, suffused with magic and mystery.  At once the story of one determined girl and a family at the crossroads as well as a powerful page-turner, American Street will leave the scent of Papa Legba’s cigar in the air and its mark on your heart.”

-LAURA RUBY, Author of Bone Gap, National Book Award Finalist, and Michael L. Printz Award Winner

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American Street
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I really don’t know how blurbs from authors affect readers’ perception of any book. But as a debut author, they mean a whole lot to me. It means a hat tip and a nod of approval from fellow writers, comrades in storytelling, allies in the work of documenting the inner and outer lives of children. And I am immensely grateful for any and every word of praise.

This blurb is from a wonderful human being whose presence in the children’s lit word is a force unto itself. I’m honored to receive this acknowledgment from award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

“Brimming with culture, magic, warmth, and unabashed rawness, American Street is ultimately a blistering tale of humanity. This is Manchild in the Promised Land for a new generation, and a remarkable debut from Zoboi, who without question is an inevitable force in storytelling.”

-Jason Reynolds, award-winning author of THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT and co-author of ALL AMERICAN BOYS

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I’ll be slowly unveiling of the beautiful cover of AMERICAN STREET, due out everywhere on February 14, 2017–Valentine’s Day. Of course, it’s a love story, and then some!

Every inch of the cover tells a story, including the white space. That’s why I love it so much! I’ll be including blurbs from some truly amazing authors (such an honor!) along with tiny glimpses of cover. It’s indeed a maze, a puzzle, a roadmap of sorts. By Friday, I’ll reveal the full cover and all the broken pieces will come together, very much like my characters and the story.

So, without further ado, below is the first praise for AMERICAN STREET:

“Zoboi’s nascent storytelling gifts ensnare from page one. To this spellbinding voice of the new generation, I bow.”

-RITA WILLIAMS-GARCIA, New York Times bestselling author and three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.

My favorite YA novel by Rita Williams-Garcia is EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES, and it features a Haitian-American girl, a love story, birds, and Brooklyn. Of course, my heart melted when I received this praise from Rita! Thank you so much, Rita!

Now, here’s a colorful and mesmerizing snippet of the cover:

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This story… If I didn’t post, tweet, or blog about it, I squeezed it into this book. ‪#‎sayhername‬ ‪#‎blackgirlmagic‬ (literally) ‪#‎HaitiLovesDetroit‬ ‪#‎HaitiLovesFlint‬ ‪#‎HaitiLovesNOLA‬

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Alessandra Balzer at HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray has preempted author Ibi Zoboi’s YA debut, American Street. Infused with magical realism and the author’s own experiences, this coming-of-age story follows a Haitian immigrant girl thrust into the world of Detroit’s west side; as Fabiola struggles to get her mother out of a U.S. detention center she’s forced to confront the true meaning of family and home, even as she falls in love. Publication is slated for winter 2017; Josh Bank and Hayley Wagreich at Alloy Entertainment negotiated the two-book deal for world English rights.

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