Book Two: Chapter 17–Epilogue

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. conceited
    having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
    Since summer practice of the previous year, the girls in the marching band started whispering things about me, saying that I was conceited just because I didn’t hang out with them and kept my head buried in a book.
  2. hassle
    annoying inconvenience, trouble, or disturbance
    I was getting enough hassle at home, to also be getting it at school from complete strangers.
  3. swindle
    deprive of by deceit
    The only ones who weren’t mean to me were the guys, but that was because they only wanted one thing from me, and that was something kids at school called “a scam.” It meant making out with someone, but when I looked it up in the dictionary the definition was different, more appropriate to what was really happening—I was being swindled, cheated, tricked.
  4. affection
    a positive feeling of liking
    I didn’t know then just how much my relationship with my father would affect my relationship with other men. I didn’t know that my need to be loved by him—and his inability to show affection—would make me desperate to find it elsewhere.
  5. void
    an empty area or space
    My father and mother were not there. But Mago was. And her presence, as always, filled the void of my parents’ absence.
  6. provide
    give what is desired or needed, as support or sustenance
    Even then Mago had still continued to look out for us, give us the things our parents could not or would not provide, like the year before when Carlos had had his heart set on a graduation ring to commemorate his accomplishment of being the second in the Grande-Rodriguez family to graduate from high school.
  7. support
    something providing immaterial assistance
    She continued to provide the emotional support we needed.
  8. sober
    not affected by a chemical substance, especially alcohol
    As long as it came from my father, I knew I would treasure it, the way I treasured anything positive he said to me during his rare sober moments.
  9. tyrant
    any person who exercises power in a cruel way
    Unlike my father, who was a tyrant when it came to school and who had demanded nothing but perfect attendance from us, my mother didn’t really care that her youngest children were losing out on their education.
  10. shack
    small crude shelter used as a dwelling
    I knew that I had been in the U.S. for too long when the sight of my grandmother’s shack, with its bamboo sticks, corrugated metal roof, and tar-soaked cardboard, shocked me. Had I really lived in this place?
  11. consider
    deem to be
    Even though my umbilical cord was buried in Iguala, I was no longer considered Mexican enough.
  12. furious
    marked by extreme anger
    “What do you mean ‘trash’? Have you forgotten this is where you come from?” I was so furious, and before I could stop myself, I pushed her.
  13. sever
    cut off from a whole
    How could she just sever the ties that bind us to this place, to these childhood friends of ours who weren’t able to escape this poverty like we did?
  14. vigilant
    carefully observant or attentive
    Now that Carlos had married and left home, Papi had been even more vigilant with us girls.
  15. reprimand
    censure severely or angrily
    I’d gotten used to him ignoring me. And honestly, I preferred that to the times when he did pay attention, because when he did, it was only to insult me or reprimand me for something or other.
  16. failure
    someone who loses consistently
    “You can forget all about going to that university. You’re going to be a failure, too, just like them, so don’t even bother.”
  17. financial
    involving fiscal matters
    My graduation came and went, and true to his word, Papi wouldn’t allow me to send in my paperwork to UC Irvine. Since I was still underage, it required his personal and financial information, and his signature, which he refused to give me.
  18. cherish
    be fond of
    Now that Mago was going to have her own baby to hold and cherish, there would be no room for me in her life.
  19. disobey
    refuse to go along with; refuse to follow; be disobedient
    I started walking away, determined to disobey him.
  20. haven
    a shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary
    My bedroom was my prison. No, my bedroom was my haven. From the door in, I was safe.
  21. vulture
    a large diurnal bird of prey feeding chiefly on carrion
    I was afraid that if I came out of the room to eat or go to the bathroom, he’d come down on me like a vulture. Little by little he pecked away at my soul.
  22. enroll
    register formally as a participant or member
    Instead, I went out to the kitchen and said, "Tomorrow I’m going to Pasadena City College to enroll.”
  23. expository
    serving to expound or set forth
    A couple of weeks into the summer semester, Dr. Savas assigned us an expository essay about the groups to which we belonged (racial, economic, religious, and so on). I went home to work on my essay, but it was difficult for me to do it. What group did I belong to? I had no idea. I'd never thought of myself belonging anywhere outside of my family.
  24. avid
    marked by active interest and enthusiasm
    For the first time since I’d become an avid reader, I found myself reading about characters that lived in a world similar to my own, characters with the same color skin as mine. With the same heartaches and dreams.
  25. resemblance
    similarity in appearance or external or superficial details
    I didn’t know then that Diana had seen in me a resemblance to herself, a young woman trying to find her way in this big city, all alone, but with a huge desire to accomplish her goals.
  26. preposterous
    inviting ridicule
    The thought that my father actually needed me was preposterous to me.
  27. obligated
    caused by law or conscience to follow a certain course
    I returned to my father’s side because I felt obligated to do so.
  28. haggard
    showing the wearing effects of overwork or care or suffering
    I was shocked at seeing him so thin, so haggard, although nothing like what he would look like later when he was dying of liver cancer.
  29. departure
    the act of leaving
    I didn’t know what it was that Mila’s departure had done to my father, but he wasn’t the same man he was before.
  30. harvest
    the gathering of a ripened crop
    This was one of the ties he still had to his country—the love for planting and harvesting. Later, I would learn to love gardening as well. During my visits to the hospital, this would be the safest thing to talk about—our vegetable gardens.
  31. unbiased
    characterized by a lack of partiality
    Edwin was a great listener. My father discovered this soon enough, and there were nights when the two of them would stay up talking after I had gone to bed. Edwin had given my father something that neither I nor my siblings could give him—an unbiased ear.
  32. reconcile
    come to terms
    Mago reconciled with my father, too, and she started coming by on the weekends with her little boy, Aidan.
  33. allegiance
    the loyalty that citizens owe to their country
    Like a child caught in a messy divorce, my allegiances were torn.
  34. altercation
    a noisy quarrel
    Despite all the altercations with Mila, my father was no longer as depressed as he had been when I’d first arrived.
  35. scholarship
    financial aid provided to a student on the basis of merit
    I told him about the scholarships I had gotten to help me pay for UCSC, like the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the La Raza Scholarship, the Minority Talent Scholarship, the Huang Future Teachers Scholarship, and the Phi Delta Kappa Scholarship Grant.
  36. border
    the boundary line or area immediately inside the boundary
    I thought about the border that separates the United States and Mexico. I wondered if during their crossing, both my father and mother had lost themselves in that no-man’s-land. I wondered if my real parents were still there, caught between two worlds.
  37. unique
    radically distinctive and without equal
    I taught immigrant children in grades six through eight for four years, and that was when I learned that my story wasn’t unique. Like me, all the children who walked into my classroom had spent time apart from their parents. In fact, studies show that 80 percent of Latin American children in U.S. schools have been separated from a parent in the process of migration.
  38. resentment
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    I had to leave my emotions at the door—anger, resentment, bitterness, sadness, frustration, regret—before I could step inside the room and be able to look him in the eye and feel nothing but concern for his well-being.
  39. presence
    the immediate proximity of someone or something
    Then, when he had been in the hospital for two months, when I weighed more than he did, when he needed dialysis every other day and his stomach fluids drained, when his only hope of getting out was by receiving not only a new liver but new kidneys as well, my research and my soup were no longer needed. What was needed was my presence.
  40. forgiveness
    the act of excusing a mistake or offense
    What was needed was something I was struggling to give—my forgiveness.
Created on May 31, 2017 (updated April 9, 2019)

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