Chapters 4–12

After surviving a massacre in her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ten-year-old Sandra Uwiringiyimana came to the United States to start a new life. In this harrowing and affecting memoir, she recounts her childhood, her experiences as an immigrant in America, and her humanitarian work.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. guffaw
    a burst of loud and hearty laughter
    Everyone let loose with their guffaws.
  2. conform
    be similar, be in line with
    My parents refused to conform to a lot of things.
  3. clad
    wearing or provided with clothing
    It was a sweet scene, a courtyard filled with students clad in white and blue.
  4. bout
    a period of illness
    One year, however, I missed a few weeks of school due to a bout of malaria.
  5. console
    give moral or emotional strength to
    “Remember, you missed a lot of classes because you were sick,” Mom said, putting her arm around me, trying to console me.
  6. slur
    a disparaging remark
    My parents told us to ignore slurs.
  7. trailblazer
    an innovator or pioneer in a field
    She was a true trailblazer.
  8. balmy
    mild and pleasant
    On the balmy evenings in our little cafe, we would play popular music on the radio, and Alex and I would dance for the customers.
  9. vigorously
    in an energetic manner
    We would dance and vigorously shake our butts and hips—twerking, basically.
  10. avail
    a means of serving
    He offered to buy his son back from the military with cows; he offered to take his son’s place, to no avail.
  11. compliant
    disposed to act in accordance with someone's wishes
    The military got the kids hooked...to make them more compliant.
  12. ordeal
    a severe or trying experience
    Heritage had temper issues from his traumatic ordeal.
  13. inherent
    existing as an essential constituent or characteristic
    In addition to the creative songs Mom wrote, she had an inherent sense of style, and she bought me the snazziest outfits.
  14. procession
    the action of a group moving ahead in regular formation
    Another big part of our community—and a personal favorite of mine—was an elaborate dance procession performed by the neighborhood kids.
  15. accentuate
    stress or single out as important
    The girls wore black T-shirts and bright, short wrap skirts to accentuate their butts, with spandex shorts underneath, stretchy and flexible for twerking.
  16. dub
    give a nickname to
    The Congolese kids at school were calling me Rwandan all the time, dubbing me a foreigner, repeating what they had heard at home.
  17. exodus
    a journey by a group to escape from a hostile environment
    We all figured it was just another temporary exodus.
  18. frantically
    in an uncontrolled manner
    Weaving through the streets of Uvira, we watched people frantically trying to get out of the city.
  19. fathom
    come to understand
    I couldn’t fathom it.
  20. frazzle
    exhaust physically or emotionally
    The first night in the field, we all slept outside on the ground, a bunch of displaced, frazzled families, uncertain of what was to come.
  21. forage
    collect or look around for, as food
    My dad went out foraging and returned with a handful of snacks he bought from kids selling them by the side of the road—peanuts and mandazi, little round cakes.
  22. demean
    reduce in worth or character, usually verbally
    We appreciated the food, but it was a demeaning and demoralizing experience.
  23. demoralize
    lower someone's spirits; make downhearted
    We appreciated the food, but it was a demeaning and demoralizing experience.
  24. resent
    feel bitter or indignant about
    I couldn’t fully comprehend why we had been displaced, why people would resent us so much that they would drive us from our homes into this barren, desolate place.
  25. barren
    providing no shelter or sustenance
    I couldn’t fully comprehend why we had been displaced, why people would resent us so much that they would drive us from our homes into this barren, desolate place.
  26. desolate
    providing no shelter or sustenance
    I couldn’t fully comprehend why we had been displaced, why people would resent us so much that they would drive us from our homes into this barren, desolate place.
  27. fateful
    having momentous consequences; of decisive importance
    And then came that fateful night, when the sound of gunfire approached while Deborah and I lay down to sleep.
  28. apparition
    a ghostly appearing figure
    I hit her on the arm to make sure she was not an apparition.
  29. resilient
    recovering readily from adversity, depression, or the like
    But my brave and resilient mom did escape.
  30. scour
    examine minutely
    As we scoured the farm, people were weeping for lost children, whimpering in pain, or sitting silently, staring at nothing.
  31. stoic
    seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive
    So stoic, so brave, my brother.
  32. influx
    the process of flowing in
    There weren’t enough people on staff to handle the influx of broken bodies.
  33. formidable
    extremely impressive in strength or excellence
    She had once been big and strong, confident and formidable.
  34. disoriented
    having lost your bearings
    Adele and Chris were disoriented.
  35. dispatch
    send away towards a designated goal
    For drinking water, sometimes Mom managed to get a jug of tap water from neighbors, or I would be dispatched to sit beneath a leaking pipe connected to another home.
  36. mortify
    cause to feel shame
    It felt mortifying and also humbling to be among those people waiting for drips.
  37. humble
    cause to be unpretentious
    It felt mortifying and also humbling to be among those people waiting for drips.
  38. unwavering
    marked by firm determination or resolution
    Eventually, seeing the unwavering faith of my parents, I began to open myself up to the idea of God’s help.
  39. hovel
    small crude shelter used as a dwelling
    My parents thought it might cheer me up if I could escape from our hovel and visit a cousin who lived a few hours away in East Africa.
  40. divulge
    make known to the public information previously kept secret
    My family might worry about my divulging something so personal.
Created on June 22, 2018 (updated June 22, 2018)

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