List 1

In this thought-provoking exploration of bias and injustice, a twelve-year-old boy meets the ghost of Emmett Till (an African-American teen who was lynched in 1955) in the afterlife.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. murmur
    speak softly or indistinctly
    Another policeman is standing over me, murmuring, “It’s a kid. It’s a kid.”
  2. wail
    emit long loud cries
    Sirens wail.
  3. holster
    a sheath for carrying a handgun
    The policeman’s hand covers his holster.
  4. ritual
    any customary observance or practice
    Ma leans down, hugs me. Grandma slides another stack of pancakes on my plate. “Promise?”
    “Promise.” Same ritual every day.
  5. pudgy
    short and plump
    I’m pudgy, easily teased.
  6. sanitation
    the state of being clean and conducive to health
    He’s a sanitation officer.
  7. lame
    pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
    The Temptations. Smokey Robinson. The Supremes. Sixties pop music. Lame. Hip-hop is better.
  8. shaft
    a column of light
    He opens the door; there’s a shaft of hallway light.
  9. optimism
    the hopeful feeling that all is going to turn out well
    Three. Grandma’s special number. “Three means ‘All.’ Optimism. Joy,” Grandma says everyday. “Heaven, Earth, Water. Three means you’re close to the angels.”
  10. perilous
    fraught with danger
    Ma always says, “In this neighborhood, getting a child to adulthood is perilous.”
  11. debris
    the remains of something that has been destroyed
    Neighbors tried to clear the debris, make a basketball court. It’s pathetic.
  12. pathetic
    deserving or inciting pity
    Neighbors tried to clear the debris, make a basketball court. It’s pathetic.
  13. clench
    squeeze together tightly
    Kim clenches her hand, purses her lips.
  14. purse
    contract one's lips into a rounded shape
    Kim clenches her hand, purses her lips.
  15. meringue
    sweet dessert or topping made of beaten egg whites and sugar
    The kitchen table is covered with food—my favorites, potato salad, lemon meringue pie, pork chops.
  16. collapse
    break down, literally or metaphorically
    To my right, Pop leans into the corner. Like he wants to collapse into the space and disappear.
  17. rasp
    speak in a harsh, grating voice
    “I’m here. I’m still here,” I rasp.
  18. glimmer
    shine brightly, like a star or a light
    She looks up and through me. Her eyes glimmer; she nods. Does she see? Does she see me?
  19. scoff
    treat with contemptuous disregard
    “Superstition,” scoffs Reverend. “This is Chicago. Jerome’s soul is already gone.”
  20. justice
    the quality of being fair, reasonable, or impartial
    “No justice. No peace,” says Pop.
  21. sear
    make very hot and dry
    My heart shatters. Nothing hurt this much, not even the bullets searing my back.
  22. wispy
    lacking clarity or distinctness
    Across the street, I see him. Wispy like soft rain. A ghost?
    Like me?
  23. mourning
    sorrowful through loss or deprivation
    It’s awful spending days in the apartment, everybody angry and mourning.
  24. misshapen
    so badly formed or distorted as to be ugly
    At night, the living room fills with shadows. Misshapen, ugly things.
  25. whimper
    cry weakly or softly
    Kim, whose bed is the couch, whimpers while she dreams.
  26. gospel
    a genre of evangelical Christian music
    Grandma hums gospel and wherever I move, she seems to know.
  27. casket
    box in which a corpse is buried or cremated
    “An open casket,” murmurs Ma.
  28. stunned
    filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise
    I’m stunned hearing Grandma speak to me. But I can’t move on. I don’t know how.
  29. swarm
    be teeming, be abuzz
    Deacons and church ladies in white dresses swarm about my family, fanning them, guiding them from the vestibule into the church.
  30. vestibule
    a large entrance or reception room or area
    Deacons and church ladies in white dresses swarm about my family, fanning them, guiding them from the vestibule into the church.
Created on June 14, 2018 (updated June 25, 2018)

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