Prologue–Chapter 5

In this memoir, ballet dancer Michaela DePrince recounts her difficult childhood in Sierra Leone, her adoption by an American family, and her success as a ballerina.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. lush
    characterized by extravagance and profusion
    I stand in the wings, dressed in a lush black tutu embellished with black feathers and blood-red flowers.
  2. embellish
    make more attractive, as by adding ornament or color
    I stand in the wings, dressed in a lush black tutu embellished with black feathers and blood-red flowers.
  3. tiara
    a jeweled, semicircular band worn on the head
    A silver tiara studded with crystal rhinestones crowns my hair, which is pulled tightly back in a thick bun.
  4. malaria
    a disease caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite
    As Mabinty Bangura, I danced on my bare toes in the mud of the rainy season, disturbing the breeding mosquitoes, who would rise up in anger and bite me—bringing malaria.
  5. cunning
    marked by skill in deception
    This isn’t the first time I’ve danced the act-two pas de deux from Swan Lake onstage as Odile, the dark and cunning daughter of the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart.
  6. renowned
    widely known and esteemed
    They flock to Jacob’s Pillow in June of each year to attend this renowned festival, and here I am about to make my entrance, the youngest professional ballerina among them, dancing a role that demands maturity and sophistication.
  7. sophistication
    the quality or character of being intellectually worldly
    They flock to Jacob’s Pillow in June of each year to attend this renowned festival, and here I am about to make my entrance, the youngest professional ballerina among them, dancing a role that demands maturity and sophistication.
  8. imposter
    a person who makes deceitful pretenses
    I feel like an imposter.
  9. tantalize
    harass with persistent teasing or baiting
    The Black Swan is a seductress, tantalizing Prince Siegfried with her womanly charms in order to steal him away from Odette, the White Swan.
  10. mystique
    an aura of heightened interest surrounding a person or thing
    After my April performance, one critic wrote, “She was the sweetest seductress you ever saw...but she has yet to develop any ballerina mystique. She is only eighteen.”
  11. vile
    morally reprehensible
    I am the Black Swan, and as a reviewer later acknowledges, “The vile Odile was delightfully chilly as she seduced the unwitting prince.”
  12. unwitting
    not aware or knowing
    I am the Black Swan, and as a reviewer later acknowledges, “The vile Odile was delightfully chilly as she seduced the unwitting prince.”
  13. alluvial
    relating to deposits carried by rushing streams
    I wondered why my father worked so hard panning for diamonds in the alluvial mines, diamonds that he would not be allowed to keep.
  14. hobble
    walk impeded by some physical limitation or injury
    Papa would hobble home at night, because his back, ankles, and feet ached.
  15. sieve
    a strainer for separating lumps from powdered material
    His hands would be swollen and painful from sifting the heavy, wet soil through his sieve.
  16. frugal
    avoiding waste
    “If we are frugal, the money from the mines will eventually be enough to pay her school fees, Alhaji,” my mother said.
  17. galling
    causing irritation or annoyance
    And nothing was more galling to my uncle than finding me outside, sitting cross-legged on a grass mat, studying and writing my letters, which I copied from the Qur’an.
  18. revolutionary
    advocating or engaged in overthrow of the government
    This resulted in poverty and hunger, which made them desperate, so they formed a revolutionary army to fight for what they needed.
  19. spare
    refrain from harming
    “We are fortunate that the debils spared our homes and our lives,” she answered.
  20. meager
    deficient in amount or quality or extent
    Soon we started seeing more and more people on the road, traveling with their meager belongings on their heads.
  21. prod
    urge on; cause to act
    He poked at my legs with his walking stick, prodding me to walk faster.
  22. gruff
    brusque and surly and forbidding
    “I will not pay even one leone. She can walk...and she isn’t my daughter,” he answered gruffly, clearly insulted by the man’s assumption that he had fathered such an ugly child.
  23. plod
    walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
    I held my bundle closer to my chest as I plodded through the mud, which sucked at my rubber sandals.
  24. beckon
    summon with a wave, nod, or some other gesture
    The friend beckoned Uncle Abdullah over to the truck and said something to him.
  25. gist
    the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work
    Many of the words were too complicated for me to understand, but I did get the gist of the papers’ content.
  26. retort
    answer back
    “I am not her parent. My own children are not spotted, like her,” Uncle Abdullah retorted.
  27. plantation
    an estate where cash crops are grown on a large scale
    “I could just as easily sell her to a cocoa plantation,” he shouted as he seized my arm and began dragging me through the door.
  28. pry
    move or force in an effort to get something open
    I wanted to go to the United States of America, but my uncle was big and strong, so he pried me away with little difficulty.
  29. intercede
    act between parties with a view to reconciling differences
    “Wait!” Andrew Jah cried out, interceding.
  30. coax
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    He coaxed my teeth off my uncle.
  31. pang
    a sudden sharp feeling
    I felt a sudden pang in my chest.
  32. lull
    make calm or still
    The girl’s sweet voice slowly lulled me into a surprisingly sound sleep.
  33. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    She struck us over and over again, raising welts all over our bodies.
  34. ricochet
    spring back; spring away from an impact
    The sound bounced against the walls and ricocheted across the room from end to end.
  35. disdain
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Some chirped through their teeth to show disdain or disgust.
Created on September 13, 2018 (updated September 13, 2018)

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