a smile expressing smugness or scorn instead of pleasure
What’s surprised me most about seeing my sister dead is the lingering
smirk on her face.
marked by excessive complacency or self-satisfaction
The top half of her face is angry—like she’s ready to stab someone—and the bottom half is almost
Olga was as
meek and fragile as a baby bird.
showing the wearing effects of overwork or care or suffering
The bruises and gashes on her cheeks are masked with thick coats of cheap foundation, making her face
haggard, even though she is (was) only twenty-two.
one whose business is the management of funerals
Where did they find this
mortician, the flea market?
very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
Tía complains about the drought the whole ride over. “It’s ruining all the crops,” she says. “The cows are
emaciated. People don’t know what to do anymore.”
having little elasticity
The land is definitely drier than I remember. The trees are yellow and
I can’t blame him, because when he tried to calm her down a few hours ago, Amá kicked and
flailed her arms until she gave him a black eye.
rise and move, as in waves
One is wearing a faded and
billowy black dress, and the other wears a saggy skirt that looks like an old curtain.
the act of providing vague advance indications
I’ve replayed the day over and over in my head so many times and have written down every single detail, but I still can’t find the
a feeling of evil to come
When someone dies, people always say they had some sort of
premonition, a sinking feeling that something awful was right around the corner.
tending to enter uninvited
Of course I was lying, but who was she to question my menstrual cycle? How
derived from experiment and observation rather than theory
“I’d be very happy to provide you with
empirical evidence if you want, even though I think you’re violating my human rights.”
drab, old-fashioned, and unattractive
She’s been wearing the same loose and
frumpy nightgown, and I’m almost positive she hasn’t taken a shower this entire time, which is scary, because Amá is the cleanest person I know.
heat to the boiling point
When I was seven, Amá found out I hadn’t showered for five days, so she dunked me in a
scalding hot tub and scrubbed me with a brush until my skin ached.
thin unleavened pancake made from cornmeal or wheat flour
I don’t want to bother my parents because they have enough to worry about, but I’m so hungry and tired of eating nothing but
tortillas and eggs.
inclined or willing to give in to orders or wishes of others
I’d rather live in the streets than be a
submissive Mexican wife who spends all day cooking and cleaning.
a long narrow opening
After searching every
crevice of my room, I manage to find $4.75 in change.
make or become wrinkled or creased
“That’s not true.” Amá
furrows her brow.
a person who lacks good judgment or is easily tricked
Sometimes I wondered if she’d live with my parents forever like that
sap Tita, from Like Water for Chocolate.
not endowed with life
The stuffed animals on the dresser make me sad. I mean, I know they’re
inanimate objects—I’m not an idiot—but I imagine them all melancholic, waiting for my sister to come back.
characterized by or causing or expressing sadness
The stuffed animals on the dresser make me sad. I mean, I know they’re inanimate objects—I’m not an idiot—but I imagine them all
melancholic, waiting for my sister to come back.
discriminatory on the basis of gender roles
sexist, for example, makes me crazy.
hanging loosely or bending downward
pendulous burdens I’ve been lugging around since I was thirteen.
If I went out into the world with naked eyeballs, I’d probably be robbed, run over by a car, or
mauled by animals.
capable of arousing and holding the attention
Once, they even went to Great America (how
tending to attract attention; marked by ostentatious display
In these dreams, I’m a famous writer who wears
flamboyant scarves and travels all around the world, meeting fascinating people.
any natural number or its negative, or zero
While Mr. Simmons goes on and on about
integers, I work on a poem in my journal.
characterized by a feeling of well-being or elation
I opened my wings and took
a swim in a warm,
of hands pressed to faces,
opened to the mad dancing
and combusted into a new constellation.
try to solve a problem by thinking intensely about it
brainstorming and doodling, I decide on the Art Institute, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world.
The Continental is small but
lavish, lots of blue and off-white.
a group of diverse companies under common ownership
“Okay, well, can you at least tell me if this hotel is connected to the Skyline? Are they owned by the same company?”
“Yes, they’re a part of the same
conglomerate. Why do you ask?”
the social class between the lower and upper classes
“Don’t we all have a right to art? Are you trying to keep me from an education? That seems very
bourgeoisie, if you ask me.”
grave or even gloomy in character
I gasp when I see the woman’s face, because my sister’s eyes are staring back at me. I never paid attention to that expression before—neither joyous nor
somber, but as if she were trying to tell me something.
a small round piece of decorative linen or paper
On top of that, there are porcelain dolls on
doilies on nearly every surface of the house.
We may be poor, but at least we’re not this
tangled in a dense mass
When Angie finally comes out of her room, she’s wearing a ratty gray robe and her hair is
matted and greasy. Her eyes are bright red, as if she’d been crying all night.
greatly annoyed; out of patience
exasperated. Maybe this was a mistake.
deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
Angie doesn’t understand how hard it’s been for me to speak to anyone in my family. She hasn’t seen how the silence and tension have been
smothering us for years. She doesn’t get that I feel like a three-headed alien in my own home.
a floor covering
As I leave her room, Doña Ramona comes rushing toward me, her slippers flap-flap-flapping on the