a small crude shelter used as a dwelling
Back with my family in our dim little
shanty in Rwanda, we continued our struggle to survive.
tinged with sadness
For me, it was a
infection transmitted by inhalation or ingestion of bacilli
For weeks, our move to America continued to feel unreal—until the officials took us to a health clinic, where we got tested for things like HIV and
pierce with many holes
Dad, who had saved the shirt and belt
riddled with bullet holes from the massacre, left them behind.
churned in my brain.
having self-possession upset; thrown into confusion
Other families from the massacre were on the plane with us, and people were in good spirits, if a little
a one-piece garment for a woman; has skirt and bodice
frocks were made in the brightly patterned East African fabrics known as kitenge, or igitenge.
the direction or path along which something moves or lies
We got our
bearings and hurried to the car, shivering to the core.
We didn’t have any other food we were used to eating, like chicken, vegetables, or our
coveted whole milk.
something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained
The microwave was another
enigma: We wondered how it cooked food, since it didn’t grill or fry.
make known; pass on, of information
Mom wanted to prepare the chicken the way she always did for us, with her sauces and spices, and she tried to
convey the ingredients she needed to the caseworkers.
any good that can be bought and sold
We knew that food was a precious
spread by scattering
Dolls, stuffed animals, and plastic cars and trucks were
strewn across the living room, and the kids didn’t seem interested in any of them.
drab, old-fashioned, and unattractive
frumpy clothing-drive clothes embarrassed me.
The bathrooms were clean, and filled with kids,
gabbing and gossiping.
gather or bring together
I tried to
muster some optimism that the next school year would be better.
in a state of decay, ruin, or deterioration
We had a
dilapidated blue home with two stories, four bedrooms, and creaky stairs.
conspicuously and tastelessly indecent
I couldn’t always understand the insults, but you can tell from people’s body language when they’re saying something
utter disapproving cries at
Thankfully, these guys never gave me any trouble beyond the
I loved the mall, so sleek and
flashy, filled with shoppers and treasures.
a mocking or contemptuous remark
To shield myself from the
jeers, I decided I needed a wig.
have an ambitious plan or a lofty goal
And being skinny was not something a child
aspired to be.
favoring one person or side over another
If I skipped a meal, he lectured me, telling me I shouldn’t listen to outsiders and their
skewed views on beauty.
similar in quality or character
I found a few
kindred spirits in the church youth group.
with heroic courage or bravery
I became friends with a girl named Mabel, a white girl who was intelligent and tried
valiantly to speak with me, even though I still knew little English.
a slight suggestion or vague understanding
She had some
inkling about my past from the older people at church, who knew we were refugees, but she never pushed me to talk about it.
so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness
The factory hours were long and tiring, and the work was
offering little or no hope
He was unresponsive, in a coma, lying in a
bleak hospital room that reeked of medicine.
beg or call upon in supplication
“Dad, blink if you can understand us,” we
urge on; cause to act
prodded me to talk to him.
spreading out in different directions
This school, Thomas Jefferson High, was another public school, a
sprawling brick compound.
not offensive to sexual mores in conduct or appearance
Other immigrant kids got picked on too, especially Muslim girls who wore
modest clothing, such as long skirts and baggy shirts.
wolfed down their food in the cafeteria at lunch, as if they were starving, and I realized they probably had little food at home.
characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion
And she had tremendous problems of her own, working in the
grueling factory by day and visiting my dad at night.
become like one's environment
She was from Tanzania but had managed to
assimilate into American culture, as she had been in the States for about three years.
She seemed confident and
an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety
I tried my best to block out the
angst—the kids at school, my dad in the hospital—and focus on my studies.
be confusing or perplexing to
I did well in my classes, especially in math and science, which
confounded some of the other kids, since my English was still raw.
relegate to a lower or outer edge, as of groups of people
I urge anyone with influence to fight for
marginalized and persecuted communities, such as Banyamulenge.
come down on or keep down by unjust use of one's authority
It is important that we stand against anyone who tries to
oppress another human being in any form.