I learned why it is essential in the endgame to have foresight, a mathematical understanding of all possible moves, and patience; all weaknesses and advantages become evident to a strong adversary and are obscured to a tiring opponent.
In this sentence, the older Waverly mocks her mother's "proper Chinese humility"--because she starts off describing her mother's pride, the phrase "is luck" is shown as a false humility. Not exactly the model of humility as a child or adult, Waverly tells about her prodigy days and reveals her annoyance at her mother for taking so much pride in what she thinks should've been her own proud accomplishments.
She sat proudly on the bench, telling my admirers with proper Chinese humility, “Is luck.”
"Tout" also means "advertise in strongly positive terms"--this fits because not only was Waverly featured in Life magazine as the "Great American Hope" but she was also crowned "Chinatown Chess Champion" by a cake in a bakery window, which led to a flower shop, headstone engraver, and funeral parlor offering to sponsor her in national tournaments.
I was still some 429 points away from grand-master status, but I was touted as the Great American Hope, a child prodigy and a girl to boot.
Although the use of "successive" is focused on the slow advancement of the black men across an imaginary chessboard, the choice of the adjective could connect to its inclusion of the word "success"--while her mother sees Waverly's success as part of her success, Waverly sees her mother's success as her defeat. To free herself from this conflict, she'd have to fly off the chessboard and not play the game.
Her black men advanced across the plane, slowly marching to each successive level as a single unit.
Because, even as a young child, I could sense the unspoken terrors that surrounded our house, the ones that chased my mother until she hid in a secret dark corner of her mind. And still they found her. I watched, over the years, as they devoured her, piece by piece, until she disappeared and became a ghost.
In the example sentence, five-year-old Lena is physically trying to unravel the many locks and chains on the basement door. But it could also refer to the older Lena trying to unravel ("disentangle") the mysterious reasons behind her mother's mental unraveling ("become undone by separating the fibers or threads of"--or in Lena's mother's case, the thoughts and memories of her different lives).
And it became so mysterious that I spent all my energies unraveling this door, until the day I was finally able to pry it open with my small fingers, only to immediately fall headlong into the dark chasm.
I saw no traces of blood-stained clothes; she wore a crisp white blouse, a blue cardigan sweater, and a blue-green pleated skirt. In fact, as I watched her, she seemed quite happy, her two brown braids bouncing jauntily in rhythm to her walk.
"Poise" also means "great coolness and composure under strain" and "a state of being balanced in a stable equilibrium"--neither of which would fit the nature of Ying-ying St. Clair, who would cry with a knife poised and the water running, who would look around everything at home with empty eyes, and who would spend most of the day lying in bed.
Sometimes she would start to make dinner, but would stop halfway, the water running full steam in the sink, her knife poised in the air over half-chopped vegetables, silent, tears flowing.
I have to admit that what I initially found attractive in Ted were precisely the things that made him different from my brothers and the Chinese boys I had dated: his brashness; the assuredness in which he asked for things and expected to get them; his opinionated manner; his angular face and lanky body; the thickness of his arms; the fact that his parents immigrated from Tarrytown, New York, not Tientsin, China.
This was such a big leap in logic, between what I said and what he said, that I thought we were like two people standing apart on separate mountain peaks, recklessly leaning forward to throw stones at one another, unaware of the dangerous chasm that separated us.
showing or motivated by sympathy and understanding and generosity
It had given them the confidence to believe their luck would never run out, that God was on their side, that the house gods had only benevolent things to report and our ancestors were pleased, that lifetime warranties meant our lucky streak would never break, that all the elements were in balance, the right amount of wind and water.
Although the younger Jing-mei actually pictured herself as a prodigy in different ways (including as a dainty ballerina and Cinderella), the older Jing-mei is mocking herself. Far from being like the baby Christ crying with holy indignity at being disturbed from his comfortable bed, Jing-mei actually brought indignity to her family with her poor piano performance that disturbed the ears of the audience.
I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity.
having little elasticity; hence easily cracked or fractured or snapped
"Brittle" also means "lacking warmth and generosity of spirit"--both definitions fit the situation. Suyuan seems physically brittle as she leaves the room, after her daughter Jing-mei shouted, "I wish I were dead! Like them." "Brittle" could also describe Suyuan's emotional state and her position that only an obedient daughter can live in her house.
Alakazam!—and her face went blank, her mouth closed, her arms went slack, and she backed out of the room, stunned, as if she were blowing away like a small brown leaf, thin, brittle, lifeless.