Chapters 13–18

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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definitions & notes only words
  1. shanty
    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.
  2. bittersweet
    tinged with sadness
    For me, it was a bittersweet moment.
  3. tuberculosis
    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 tuberculosis.
  4. riddle
    pierce with many holes
    Dad, who had saved the shirt and belt riddled with bullet holes from the massacre, left them behind.
  5. churn
    be agitated
    Other questions churned in my brain.
  6. discombobulated
    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 discombobulated.
  7. frock
    a one-piece garment for a woman; has skirt and bodice
    Mom’s frocks were made in the brightly patterned East African fabrics known as kitenge, or igitenge.
  8. bearing
    the direction or path along which something moves or lies
    We got our bearings and hurried to the car, shivering to the core.
  9. coveted
    greatly desired
    We didn’t have any other food we were used to eating, like chicken, vegetables, or our coveted whole milk.
  10. enigma
    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.
  11. convey
    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.
  12. commodity
    any good that can be bought and sold
    We knew that food was a precious commodity.
  13. strew
    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.
  14. frumpy
    drab, old-fashioned, and unattractive
    My frumpy clothing-drive clothes embarrassed me.
  15. gab
    talk profusely
    The bathrooms were clean, and filled with kids, gabbing and gossiping.
  16. muster
    gather or bring together
    I tried to muster some optimism that the next school year would be better.
  17. dilapidated
    in a state of decay, ruin, or deterioration
    We had a dilapidated blue home with two stories, four bedrooms, and creaky stairs.
  18. crude
    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 crude.
  19. catcall
    utter disapproving cries at
    Thankfully, these guys never gave me any trouble beyond the catcalling.
  20. flashy
    tastelessly showy
    I loved the mall, so sleek and flashy, filled with shoppers and treasures.
  21. jeer
    a mocking or contemptuous remark
    To shield myself from the jeers, I decided I needed a wig.
  22. aspire
    have an ambitious plan or a lofty goal
    And being skinny was not something a child aspired to be.
  23. skewed
    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.
  24. kindred
    similar in quality or character
    I found a few kindred spirits in the church youth group.
  25. valiantly
    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.
  26. inkling
    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.
  27. tedious
    so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness
    The factory hours were long and tiring, and the work was tedious.
  28. bleak
    offering little or no hope
    He was unresponsive, in a coma, lying in a bleak hospital room that reeked of medicine.
  29. implore
    beg or call upon in supplication
    “Dad, blink if you can understand us,” we implored.
  30. prod
    urge on; cause to act
    She prodded me to talk to him.
  31. sprawling
    spreading out in different directions
    This school, Thomas Jefferson High, was another public school, a sprawling brick compound.
  32. modest
    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.
  33. wolf down
    eat hastily
    They wolfed down their food in the cafeteria at lunch, as if they were starving, and I realized they probably had little food at home.
  34. grueling
    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.
  35. assimilate
    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.
  36. brash
    offensively bold
    She seemed confident and brash.
  37. angst
    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.
  38. confound
    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.
  39. marginalize
    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.
  40. oppress
    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.
Created on June 22, 2018 (updated June 22, 2018)

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