Chapters 19–26

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. crusade
    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.
  2. privileged
    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?
  3. aback
    by surprise
    Mabel explained what had happened, and Miss Trish looked a bit taken aback.
  4. lingo
    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.
  5. versed
    thoroughly acquainted through study or experience
    I was not well versed in American history, but I had learned the basics in school in Africa.
  6. dubious
    not convinced
    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.
  7. conversely
    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.
  8. genocide
    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.
  9. intently
    with strained or eager attention
    My white friends, Leah and Mackenzie, listened intently to the discussions.
  10. incidentally
    by the way (used to introduce a new topic)
    And incidentally, that store clerk totally blew it—Leah's dad had given her money for the shopping trip.
  11. gripe
    a complaint or objection
    She did her work with such grace and resilience, never a gripe.
  12. essentially
    at bottom or by something's very nature
    Essentially, everything my parents knew about American culture came from me.
  13. subdued
    restrained in style or quality
    For one thing, she thought white people had small, subdued weddings, not major celebrations like in our tribe.
  14. appalled
    struck with fear, dread, or consternation
    When I wanted to wear a bikini to the beach, Mom was appalled by the concept.
  15. corsage
    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 corsage.
  16. diplomacy
    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.
  17. gospel
    a genre of evangelical Christian music
    We hugged and held each other close. We sang the old gospel songs of our people.
  18. bungle
    make a mess of, destroy, or ruin
    I was self-conscious about my accent and my English, worried that I would bungle the words.
  19. uproot
    move forcibly from a homeland into a new foreign environment
    Millions of people have been uprooted and displaced by war.
  20. plight
    a situation from which extrication is difficult
    But I liked letting people know what we had been through, describing the plight of refugees.
  21. foster
    promote the growth of
    Perhaps I was helping foster understanding between cultures, in some small way.
  22. persecution
    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 persecution.”
  23. poignant
    keenly distressing to the mind or feelings
    The pictures looked poignant and powerful, looming large on the walls.
  24. slew
    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.
  25. entourage
    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 entourage.
  26. surreal
    resembling a dream
    She dedicated her first song to me. Another surreal moment.
  27. humanitarian
    of or relating to the promotion of popular welfare
    Humanitarian groups reached out to me, asking me to get involved.
  28. hobnob
    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.
  29. hearten
    give encouragement to
    It was kind of amusing, and also heartening, hearing my parents recite the branches of government in their broken English.
  30. futile
    producing no result or effect
    And even if we could, the system was so corrupt, it would have been futile.
  31. liberal
    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.
  32. conservative
    having social or political views favoring the right wing
    Back home in Africa, my parents would have considered themselves conservative.
  33. deem
    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.
  34. ensue
    take place or happen afterward or as a result
    A scuffle ensued, and Zimmerman shot and killed him, claiming self-defense.
  35. impoverished
    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.
  36. mired
    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.
  37. traverse
    journey across or pass over
    We had to stop and walk a few times, traversing rickety wooden bridges stretching across ponds.
  38. ominous
    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.
  39. brazen
    unrestrained by convention or propriety
    She didn’t talk much, unlike the other kids who brazenly followed us around the camp.
  40. shadowy
    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.
Created on June 22, 2018 (updated June 22, 2018)

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