Book Two: Prologue–Chapter 8

In this memoir, award-winning author Reyna Grande explores the immigrant experience as she reflects on how a childhood torn between parents and countries made her who she is.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. terminal
    causing or ending in or approaching death
    But as is often the case with terminal illnesses, broken families put themselves back together, and I began to find my way back to my father, although the journey—like the one I took across the U.S.-Mexico border—was not at all easy.
  2. humble
    cause to be unpretentious
    Cancer had taken so much from him already. It had humbled him in a way I never imagined him being humbled.
  3. deport
    expel from a country
    "And you three better do well in your classes, because if you don’t, I won’t wait for la migra to deport you. I’ll send you back to Mexico myself!”
  4. advantage
    benefit resulting from some event or action
    I brought you to this country to get an education and to take advantage of all the opportunities this country has to offer.
  5. predominantly
    much greater in number or influence
    Our new home in the U.S. was in Highland Park, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles.
  6. access
    the right to make use of or take advantage of something
    Finally, we had unrestricted access to television, yet strangely enough, sometimes I would miss the radio and the fairy tales I’d liked to listen to.
  7. immensity
    unusual largeness in size or extent or number
    When we arrived at the beach, Carlos, Mago, and I took off running to the shore and stared at the endless ocean before us. The few pictures I had seen in books or magazines couldn’t capture its immensity. Miles and miles of water glittering under the summer sun.
  8. erode
    remove soil or rock
    “Don’t let go of me,” I said to Papi as I clutched his hand, my toes digging into the sand eroding from under me.
  9. bilingual
    using or knowing two languages
    I hoped that one day I would be like her, fluently bilingual and a U.S. citizen.
  10. apprehension
    fearful expectation or anticipation
    But early the next day, when Mago, Carlos, and I stopped at the corner to say goodbye, my apprehension returned.
  11. overwhelm
    overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli
    I peeked inside the main doors, and I was overwhelmed by all the doors, the hallway that seemed to never end. I felt as if I were looking at a repeating image in a distorted mirror. My school in Mexico didn’t have hallways. It didn’t have so many doors.
  12. roster
    a list of names
    "Me llamo Reyna Grande Rodriguez,” I said.
    He glanced at his roster and then looked at me. “Here in this country, we only use one last name. See here,” he said, showing me the roster. "You’re enrolled as Reyna Grande.”
  13. accomplishment
    the action of achieving something
    I felt as if I owed him something, as if there was a debt that needed to be repaid. The way I could pay it back was to make him proud of my accomplishments, because they would be his accomplishments, too.
  14. translation
    rendering in another language with the same meaning
    But I didn’t have the words to tell this to Mrs. Giuliano, and I was afraid their meaning would get lost in the translation, no matter how similar Italian and Spanish were.
  15. nostalgic
    unhappy about being away and longing for familiar things
    The smell made me even more nostalgic for Iguala.
  16. inhale
    draw in, as air
    I would inhale Mexico through my nostrils. While at the supermarket with Mila, picking out vegetables and herbs, crushing cilantro leaves with my fingers, bringing a bunch of epazote up to my nose, I’d think of meals in Mexico, of a pot of beans boiling, of my grandmother adding epazote leaves for flavor.
  17. reservation
    an unstated doubt that prevents you from accepting something
    I no longer had any reservations about putting on the costume of that girl named Rainbow Brite. Whoever she was, all I cared about was getting my free candy.
  18. apologize
    acknowledge faults or shortcomings or failing
    I wanted him to say he was sorry, but we’d lived there long enough to know that Papi never apologized for anything. He still hadn’t said he was sorry for leaving us in Mexico for eight years.
  19. adjust
    adapt or conform oneself to new or different conditions
    “I know what your father did was wrong, but try to understand him. It’s been a long time since he has had to be a father. Give him time to adjust.”
  20. abundance
    the property of a more than adequate quantity or supply
    By the time we returned home, it was past nine and our bags were bursting with candy. We had to carry them in our arms because the plastic handles had long broken from all the weight, from the abundance only found in El Otro Lado.
  21. predicament
    an unpleasant or difficult situation
    Now that I’m a mother, I can understand the predicament she found herself in back then—leaving her own children, only to have to raise another woman’s offspring.
  22. traitor
    someone who betrays his country by committing treason
    “That’s what you get for being a traitor,” Mago said when I told her what I’d done. "She’s right. She’s not our mom. Why are you always trying to find mothers everywhere you go?”
  23. intrigue
    cause to be interested or curious
    But Mago and I were intrigued by Mila, the woman who, in part, was responsible for breaking up my parents’ twelve-year marriage.
  24. rely
    have confidence or faith in
    But beside her pretty looks and taste in clothes, Mila had other advantages Mami did not. Mila spoke English, which meant that Papi relied on her for nearly everything because he spoke only Spanish.
  25. cater
    give what is desired or needed
    She didn’t cater to his every whim as women in Mexico are taught to do, as Mami had done while living with him.
  26. ungrateful
    not feeling or showing gratitude
    "Well, Mila made this meal for you and now you’re going to have to eat it. I won’t have you being ungrateful.”
  27. distract
    draw someone's attention away from something
    Mago said she would distract the owner while Carlos and I took whatever we thought would make good gifts.
  28. trespass
    enter unlawfully on someone's property
    We rushed up Avenue 50 as fast as we could, our hearts beating faster than when we trespassed into El Cuervo’s mango grove. If we got caught, we wouldn’t be shot at. We would get deported by Papi.
  29. rite
    any customary observance or practice
    There were many words I didn’t yet understand, and I had to keep looking them up in the dictionary. My favorite was " rite of passage.” It sounded important.
  30. writhing
    moving in a twisting or snake-like or wormlike fashion
    He came barging into the house, and without asking for an explanation, he took off his belt and gave my sister the biggest lashing any of us had gotten thus far, right there on the couch where she had been writhing in pain all day.
  31. hygiene
    the prevention of illness and maintenance of health
    Mrs. Anderson announced that the school nurse would be coming in shortly to check the students for hygiene problems. I was surprised at that. Everyone around me looked clean and healthy. All the students had nice clothes on, shoes that were practically new. Nobody was barefoot. No one looked as if they hadn't bathed in days.
  32. inflict
    impose something unpleasant
    My father, the one who inflicted pain with his belt or his words, the one who had shown little tenderness toward us, who had hands hardened and callused from so many years of hard manual labor, was very gentle when delousing my hair.
  33. devote
    give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause
    For the first time since I’d been in this country, Papi devoted a full two hours to me.
  34. frustrating
    preventing realization or attainment of a desire
    Mago would say his backward thinking was very frustrating. "This is the United States,” she would say, “not Mexico."
  35. pose
    assume a bearing as for artistic purposes
    There were pictures of us wearing our new clothes from Kmart, of Carlos riding the used bicycle Papi bought him, of us playing baseball in the yard. We would take pictures of us posing on Papi’s red Mustang, of us celebrating holidays like Halloween and Christmas. Always in the pictures, we were smiling, as if life was more than we could ever have hoped for in this perfect place.
  36. gap
    an open or empty space in or between things
    While my siblings and I had been struggling to overcome the gap that was created between us and our father when he’d left us behind, Elida had been doing the same thing with her mother.
  37. toll
    value measured by what must be done to obtain something
    Immigration took a toll on us all.
  38. intoxicated
    stupefied or excited by a chemical substance
    As soon as we opened the door, I became intoxicated with the smells of incense, melted wax, and flowers.
  39. surrounded
    confined on all sides
    We took a seat in the back pew and listened to mass while surrounded by the saints and Christ, wondering if Abuelita Chinta was at church in Iguala at that very minute, looking up at the face of Jesus, as we were doing now.
  40. assimilation
    the process of absorbing one cultural group into another
    She also claimed that her teachers had trouble saying her real name, Magloria, and her history teacher had started calling her Maggie. So now she was known as Maggie everywhere but at home. But there was more to the story than that. It was the beginning of her assimilation.
Created on May 31, 2017 (updated April 9, 2019)

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