Chapters 20-25

In Ibi Zoboi's debut novel, a young Haitian immigrant tries to make a new life for herself in Detroit.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. drought
    a shortage of rainfall
    This is the drought before the cleansing rain, as my mother would say—the storm cloud before the sun.
  2. accusation
    an assertion that someone is guilty of a fault or offence
    I turn to see a regular girl, not tall, not short, not fat or skinny. Just regular. Except for the way she asks me the question, as if it’s an accusation.
  3. linger
    remain present although waning or gradually dying
    “My name is not even Fabulous. It’s Fabiola. Fabiola Toussaint!” I say, but it’s the words I’m in love with you that linger in my mind.
  4. invisible
    impossible or nearly impossible to see
    Slowly, I take his invisible heart and hold it close to mine.
  5. shift
    the time period during which you are at work
    “I gotta go work the evening shift,” he says as he parks on American Street and turns off the engine.
  6. responsible
    worthy of or requiring trust; held accountable
    My cousins are the ones who are responsible.
  7. tornado
    a violently destructive windstorm occurring over land
    There are questions and questions that whirl around my mind like a tornado, and they slowly make their way up to my throat to form one deep, angry wail.
  8. brace
    prepare for something unpleasant or difficult
    I brace myself because I have to hear more.
  9. sneak
    to go stealthily or furtively
    I sneak partway down the stairs and peek under the banister.
  10. pyramid
    a polyhedron having a polygonal base and triangular sides
    “Maybe we’re not supposed to be like a pyramid,” Chantal continues. “’Cause that’ll mean somebody would have to be on top. And we don’t want nobody falling off.”
  11. geometry
    the mathematics of points and lines and curves and surfaces
    “I can’t believe she’s turning this...into a geometry class,” Pri mumbles.
  12. silky
    having a soft, smooth, shiny surface
    A silky scarf is tied around her head and for the first time, I get a good look at her face without all the makeup.
  13. random
    lacking any definite plan or order or purpose
    “It wasn’t random,” she continues. “Our father dipped his toe into the game for just a hot minute..."
  14. hearty
    providing abundant nourishment
    I hug myself and pretend it’s her arms around me, pulling me in close, and kissing me on the forehead, and asking me if I washed my face, if I did my homework, if I made a good, hearty meal for her to eat.
  15. warrior
    someone engaged in or experienced in warfare
    If the old man at the corner called Bad Leg is Papa Legba in the flesh, if Dray with his eye patch and gold cross is Baron Samedi, if Donna with her makeup and pretty things is Ezili and, with her scars, Ezili-Danto, then Chantal and Pri can be my spirit guides, too, as Ogu, the warrior, and one-half of Les Marassa Jumeaux, the divine twins who stand for truth, balance, and justice.
  16. divine
    being or having the nature of a god
    If the old man at the corner called Bad Leg is Papa Legba in the flesh, if Dray with his eye patch and gold cross is Baron Samedi, if Donna with her makeup and pretty things is Ezili and, with her scars, Ezili-Danto, then Chantal and Pri can be my spirit guides, too, as Ogu, the warrior, and one-half of Les Marassa Jumeaux, the divine twins who stand for truth, balance, and justice.
  17. budge
    move very slightly
    I run back to the house and reach the door, turn the knob, but it doesn’t budge.
  18. recite
    repeat aloud from memory
    I tie my head with my mother’s white scarf, fill the white enamel mug with water from the bathroom sink, light another tea candle with a match, and recite my prayer to Papa Legba once again.
  19. tolerance
    the act of putting up with something
    Adrian came home two days later, drunk, smelly, bruised, and without a job because Henry Ford had zero tolerance for drunkards and their bathtub gin.
  20. flaunt
    display proudly
    Adrian liked to flaunt his money, even during the Great Depression of 1929, when the other husbands were let go from their jobs, and the women knocked on the door of 8800 American Street for some bread and milk or for some of that well-hidden money.
  21. sharecropper
    a tenant farmer who owes a portion of each harvest for rent
    Father of two, Alabama native, and son of a sharecropper, Lester Charles Walker was one of American Street’s very first black residents in 1947.
  22. plague
    a serious infection of rodents transmitted to humans
    The old families, whose grandfathers and fathers worked at the Ford plant, were fleeing the neighborhood as if it was the second coming of the black plague.
  23. prey
    animal hunted or caught for food
    And it swept over most of Detroit like a giant bird of prey.
  24. kinfolk
    a person's relatives, collectively
    It was no use selling 8800 since kinfolk from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina were now moving in, and on most days, they gathered on the sidewalks and the porches for gossip and cookouts.
  25. riot
    a state of disorder involving group violence
    So during the 12th Street riot in July 1967, Lester Junior was struck by a single bullet to the head.
  26. occupant
    someone who lives at a particular place for a long period
    So in 2000, Jean-Phillip François, the Haitian immigrant and the first occupant to actually land a job at a car factory—the Chrysler plant—paid the city three thousand dollars in cash for that little house on American Street.
  27. cautionary
    serving to warn
    Death parked itself on that corner of American and Joy, some days as still as stone, other days singing cautionary songs and delivering telltale riddles, waiting for the day when one girl would ask to open the gates to the other side.
  28. telltale
    disclosing unintentionally
    Death parked itself on that corner of American and Joy, some days as still as stone, other days singing cautionary songs and delivering telltale riddles, waiting for the day when one girl would ask to open the gates to the other side.
  29. semester
    one of two divisions of an academic year
    But it doesn’t change who they are—Chantal still sticks to her books and is worried about paying for her classes next semester.
  30. highlight
    move into the foreground to make more visible or prominent
    I give in to all the things I’ve always liked: jeans that show off my curves, light makeup—not too much, just lip gloss and mascara—and beautiful hairstyles that highlight my eyes and cheekbones as Donna says.
  31. au gratin
    covered with breadcrumbs or cheese and baked
    I grate cheese and melt it down with butter and milk for the macaroni au gratin.
  32. tender
    easy to cut or chew
    I boil it for a long time before it’s tender enough to fry.
  33. protective
    intended or adapted to provide safety of some kind
    I hum over the food as if my songs and words will be a protective magic.
  34. shriek
    utter a shrill cry
    It’s still covered in tinfoil, so I uncover it, and each one of my cousins and my aunt shriek, yell, and cry at the same time as if they’ve just seen the most terrible thing in the world.
  35. masterpiece
    an outstanding achievement
    I stare at my masterpiece of a turkey—the turkey I spent hours cutting up into small pieces and frying to perfection—the giant breasts, the wings, the legs are all well seasoned and resting in a nice spicy tomato sauce full of sliced peppers and onions.
  36. ignorant
    uneducated in general; lacking knowledge or sophistication
    “You ignorant ass,” Chantal says.
  37. independence
    freedom from control or influence of another or others
    “What about January first, Ma? When the Haitians got their independence. First independent black nation in the world. That’s a black man’s holiday. That’s what soup joumou is for, right?”
  38. scrawny
    being very thin
    These boys are not like the scrawny broomsticks back home in Haiti.
  39. unravel
    become or cause to become undone by separating the fibers of
    She tries to smile around Taj and is trying hard not to let Dray unravel her.
  40. pendant
    an adornment that hangs from a piece of jewelry
    Dray opens the box and it’s a pendant.
  41. unpredictable
    unknown in advance
    If Dray and Donna’s love is like a tornado—wild, dangerous, and unpredictable—then this thing between me and Kasim is like the ocean—deep, deep, and as wide as the endless earth.
  42. riddle
    a difficult problem
    Papa Legba has another riddle for me.
  43. joyous
    full of or characterized by happiness
    Every bit of laughter, every joyous moment, is swallowed up by a deep, deep sadness.
  44. volcano
    a fissure in the earth's crust through which gases erupt
    I am a volcano.
  45. lava
    rock that in its molten form issues from volcanos
    Everything—Haiti, my mother, my cousins, my aunt, the house, school, Kasim, the detective, Dray, America—comes to a boil: sizzling and popping and oozing hot, red lava.
Created on November 27, 2017 (updated December 5, 2017)

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