a series of actions tending toward a particular end
He was dreaming that he was at a church event we call a “
crusade,” a big prayer gathering.
blessed with special advantages
Goodness, I thought. Are these people so bored, so
privileged, that they want to sleep outside on the ground instead of in their comfy beds?
Mabel explained what had happened, and Miss Trish looked a bit taken
a characteristic language of a particular group
The black girls spoke with an urban
lingo I did not know, and they sometimes said I sounded “white,” just like the kids at my last school had said.
thoroughly acquainted through study or experience
I was not well
versed in American history, but I had learned the basics in school in Africa.
Sometimes the kids would ask if I believed in God, and they seemed
dubious when I said yes, as if there were no religions in Africa.
with the terms of the relation reversed
Conversely, in Africa, the images of America make it seem like it is a land so divine, only good things happen.
systematic killing of a racial or cultural group
We watched Hotel Rwanda, the movie about the bloody
genocide in Rwanda that left as many as a million people dead.
with strained or eager attention
My white friends, Leah and Mackenzie, listened
intently to the discussions.
by the way (used to introduce a new topic)
incidentally, that store clerk totally blew it—Leah's dad had given her money for the shopping trip.
a complaint or objection
She did her work with such grace and resilience, never a
at bottom or by something's very nature
Essentially, everything my parents knew about American culture came from me.
restrained in style or quality
For one thing, she thought white people had small,
subdued weddings, not major celebrations like in our tribe.
struck with fear, dread, or consternation
When I wanted to wear a bikini to the beach, Mom was
appalled by the concept.
an arrangement of flowers that is usually given as a present
His dad drove him over to my house before the dance, and Michael awkwardly handed me my
subtly skillful handling of a situation
It was a real
diplomacy act. They had their traditions and values, and I was growing up in a different world, a different culture. I had to try not to get too far ahead of them, and they had to try to catch up with me.
a genre of evangelical Christian music
We hugged and held each other close. We sang the old
gospel songs of our people.
make a mess of, destroy, or ruin
I was self-conscious about my accent and my English, worried that I would
bungle the words.
move forcibly from a homeland into a new foreign environment
Millions of people have been
uprooted and displaced by war.
a situation from which extrication is difficult
But I liked letting people know what we had been through, describing the
plight of refugees.
promote the growth of
Perhaps I was helping
foster understanding between cultures, in some small way.
causing someone to suffer
“We grew up fleeing from place to place, and our fathers and our mothers carried us on their backs. We also started fleeing with our own children on our backs, because every year, we expected
keenly distressing to the mind or feelings
The pictures looked
poignant and powerful, looming large on the walls.
a large number or amount or extent
They had a
slew of questions, and it felt good to be able to talk with young people about my experience.
the group following and attending to some important person
I was standing there, taking in the scene, when Oprah walked in, glowing in a long green dress, surrounded by an
resembling a dream
She dedicated her first song to me. Another
of or relating to the promotion of popular welfare
Humanitarian groups reached out to me, asking me to get involved.
associate familiarly, especially with someone of high status
I'm sure people thought I lived a glamorous life in the States,
hobnobbing with celebrities in the land where only good things happen.
give encouragement to
It was kind of amusing, and also
heartening, hearing my parents recite the branches of government in their broken English.
producing no result or effect
And even if we could, the system was so corrupt, it would have been
having political views favoring reform and progress
My political views were beginning to take shape, and the more I learned about America, the more
liberal I became.
having social or political views favoring the right wing
Back home in Africa, my parents would have considered themselves
judge or regard in a particular way
I watched the news unfold on TV with my mom: Trayvon, a black high school student, was walking home from a convenience store when a man named George Zimmerman began following him,
deeming him suspicious.
take place or happen afterward or as a result
ensued, and Zimmerman shot and killed him, claiming self-defense.
poor enough to need help from others
The city had evolved since I had last seen it, during those
impoverished years when we lived in Rwanda after the massacre.
entangled or hindered
Back then, more than five years earlier, the capital city was
mired in corruption, with crumbling roads and buildings, slums in the middle of the city.
journey across or pass over
We had to stop and walk a few times,
traversing rickety wooden bridges stretching across ponds.
threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
My mind flew back to a memory of myself fetching water as a girl in the camp, but I didn’t have time to think about it—we were heading toward an
ominous rocky mountain that looked as if it went up into the clouds.
unrestrained by convention or propriety
She didn’t talk much, unlike the other kids who
brazenly followed us around the camp.
lacking clarity or distinctness
As night fell over the hushed,
shadowy hills of the countryside, I thought of the women in the camp, spending their days cooking with corn and rice, tending to their children, gossiping about camp life.