Chapters 21-29

After the sudden death of her seemingly perfect sister, Julia tries to learn more about her sister's life while negotiating complicated family relationships.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. obscene
    offensive to the mind
    Every milestone or accomplishment leads to alcohol and obscene amounts of fried meat.
  2. venue
    the scene of any event or action
    That afternoon, Belén, Mamá Jacinta, and I walk over to the venue where the rest of the family has been preparing all morning.
  3. writhing
    moving in a twisting or snake-like or wormlike fashion
    Tío Chucho and my cousin Andrés drag the writhing pig with a long red rope.
  4. jut
    extend out or project in space
    I eat them without much difficulty, but when I make my next taco, I see a few thick hairs jutting from the skin.
  5. putrid
    of or relating to the process of decay
    I imagine my face a beautiful shade of putrid green when I’m finished, but I’m proud of my triumph.
  6. lanky
    tall and thin and having long slender limbs
    Tía Fermina and tío Raul dance cheek to cheek. Belén dances with Mamá Jacinta’s lanky next-door neighbor.
  7. entrails
    internal organs collectively
    Belén forces me to go to the soccer game, even though I tell her I have a hatred for sports that is located deep inside my entrails.
  8. slather
    spread thickly
    After Los Tigres score their first goal, a dark guy in a cowboy hat comes toward us with bottles of Coke and plastic bags of pork skins slathered in red salsa.
  9. assertive
    aggressively self-assured
    “Don’t mind Esteban,” Belén says, smirking. “He can be a little pesado sometimes.”
    I wouldn’t call him pesado, but he’s definitely assertive.
  10. reverie
    an abstracted state of absorption
    A truck blasting a narcocorrido wakes me from my reverie.
  11. thrive
    grow vigorously
    The white and yellow roses planted in old buckets are thriving despite the drought, because tía Fermina cares for them as if they were children.
  12. persistence
    steady determination
    Their persistence makes me feel hopeful.
  13. captivating
    attracting and holding interest as if by a spell
    That doesn’t mean she’s not attractive, though; tía has a captivating face, like all the Montenegro women.
  14. deja vu
    the experience of thinking a new situation already occurred
    I suddenly have déjà vu; I know I came to this town with Mamá Jacinta once, long ago, but I don’t remember why exactly.
  15. fathom
    come to understand
    “Every time I called her, she’d tell me she was fine, but I knew she wasn’t. Of course she wasn’t. How could she be fine without her daughter? That’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you. I can’t even fathom it. God forbid.”
  16. mangy
    worn or threadbare
    A mangy stray dog creeps toward us and begins sniffing me.
  17. commotion
    a disorderly outburst or tumult
    The commotion stops after a few seconds, and just when we think it’s over, the gunshots begin.
  18. consolation
    the act of giving relief in affliction
    “Why, God, why?” Tía Fermina rubs her back and tries to calm her down, but Mamá Jacinta whimpers and cries. She is distraught beyond consolation. Tía Estela crosses herself over and over.
  19. cartel
    a consortium formed to limit commercial competition
    It’s especially dangerous for tío Chucho to drive, since the cartel has been after Andrés for years.
  20. pang
    a sudden sharp feeling
    I feel a pang in my chest and remember a line from a poem I read a long time ago about terror being the beginning of beauty.
  21. delusional
    suffering from or characterized by erroneous beliefs
    This is a side of Olga I never saw: desperate, clingy, and delusional.
  22. complacent
    contented to a fault with oneself or one's actions
    Here I thought she was virginal, passive, and complacent, letting the world pass her by...
  23. oppressive
    weighing heavily on the senses or spirit
    Everything is shiny to an oppressive degree; I can practically see my reflection in the marble floor.
  24. sensibility
    refined responsiveness to pleasurable or painful impressions
    A middle-aged lady with a pointy nose and expensive trench coat scowls at me when I enter the lobby, like I don't belong there, like my existence offends her sensibilities or something.
  25. immaculate
    without fault or error
    ‘Oh, don’t mind this child here. It was a result of immaculate conception.’
  26. humongous
    very large
    The protestors look at her as if she were a humongous ogre.
  27. secretion
    a specialized substance released from a gland or cell
    I stopped worrying about all the bacteria and secretions in the water and learned to enjoy it.
  28. leper
    a pariah who is avoided by others
    Even when I admit to something that I think is shameful or embarrassing, she doesn’t scold me or look at me like I’m a leper.
  29. repressive
    restricting action, freedom, or expression
    “Sometimes it’s difficult for people to adjust to new ideas, particularly if they come from a very different culture. I can imagine that perhaps your mother doesn’t mean to be so repressive; that to her, it’s a way to protect you.”
  30. empathy
    understanding and entering into another's feelings
    “Maybe it’s a way for you to become closer to her, to let her know you understand a very important part of who she is, to show your empathy.”
  31. sulk
    be in a huff and display one's displeasure
    Lorena and Juanga take me to Lincoln Park Zoo to cheer me up on a warm and bright Sunday afternoon, even though I tell them I’d rather stay home sulking.
  32. busk
    play music in a public place and solicit money for it
    The next day, right when I begin to consider a career in busking or garbage collecting, two thick envelopes arrive in the mail: one from NYU and the other from DePaul University.
  33. haiku
    an epigrammatic Japanese verse form of three short lines
    It’s hard to explain, but it reminds me of a haiku I once read: “Even in Kyoto—/ hearing the cuckoo’s cry—/ I long for Kyoto.”
  34. nostalgic
    unhappy about being away and longing for familiar things
    I feel like that a lot. I get nostalgic before I have to.
  35. distortion
    the act of twisting something out of its true meaning
    I’m supposed to write what she calls my “mental distortions” in a journal and then challenge them with more reasonable thoughts.
  36. deception
    a misleading falsehood
    "She opened the vault, the box in which she kept herself—old filmstrips of her life, her truth. Broken feathers, crushed mirrors creating a false gleam. She takes it all apart, every moment, every lie, every deception. Everything stops: snapshots of serenity, beauty, bliss, surface..."
  37. serenity
    the absence of mental stress or anxiety
    "She opened the vault, the box in which she kept herself—old filmstrips of her life, her truth. Broken feathers, crushed mirrors creating a false gleam. She takes it all apart, every moment, every lie, every deception. Everything stops: snapshots of serenity, beauty, bliss, surface..."
  38. nomad
    a member of a people who have no permanent home
    She thrives in her truth and travels the world like a nomad, stealing the beauty of violet skies, fishing for pearls, pretty arabesques, paper swans, pressing them to her face, and keeping them between her palms.
  39. arabesque
    position in which the dancer has one leg raised behind
    She thrives in her truth and travels the world like a nomad, stealing the beauty of violet skies, fishing for pearls, pretty arabesques, paper swans, pressing them to her face, and keeping them between her palms.
  40. simpleton
    a person lacking intelligence or common sense
    It’s not like I’m some simpleton who doesn’t know anything about life.
  41. frilly
    having decorative ruffles or similar ornamentation
    She says she has to wear those ridiculous frilly and embroidered dresses, but the money is good.
  42. frazzle
    exhaust physically or emotionally
    O’Hare is brimming with frazzled people in a hurry.
  43. purgatory
    a temporary condition of torment or suffering
    My eyes are faucets now, but it doesn’t matter. If there’s any place on earth where people should be allowed to cry as they watch their lives transform before them, it’s the airport. In a way, it’s kind of like purgatory, isn’t it? An in-between place.
  44. mediocre
    moderate to inferior in quality
    What a waste their journey would be if I just settled for a dull, mediocre life.
  45. delve
    turn up, loosen, or remove earth
    These last two years I combed and delved through my sister’s life to better understand her, which meant I learned to find pieces of myself—both beautiful and ugly—and how amazing is it that I hold a piece of her right here in my hands?
Created on January 27, 2018 (updated January 30, 2018)

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