seeming unaffected by pleasure or pain; impassive
stoic I appeared, the more Auntie Fatmata tried to make me cry.
showing faith in magic and ignorance of the laws of nature
The aunties were
superstitious, and we lived in a place where many people practiced voodoo, so I knew my trick would scare them.
a religion practiced chiefly in Caribbean countries
The aunties were superstitious, and we lived in a place where many people practiced
voodoo, so I knew my trick would scare them.
When the driver of the truck began unloading huge white bags at the gate, I sounded out the letters until I could read the red-and-blue print. “Mealie meal: super
maize meal. Food!”
laugh at with contempt and derision
“That is just the wind calling,” Mabinty Suma
perform vaccinations or inoculate against a disease
“If you hadn’t been late, Mabinty Bangura, you would have known the answer to that question. No, not now. They are coming to photograph you and examine each of you. They’ll also
immunize you,” he said.
faltered when three ladies climbed out of the car.
walk in a proud, confident way
Once free, I
strutted up and down the line of girls waiting for their turns.
sit or lie with one's limbs spread out
sprawled on the ground with their eyes and mouths open in terror.
the most direct route
We made a
beeline for the trees.
done or made using whatever is available
We were taken to a
makeshift village where the huts were made out of thin plastic, making it look like a sprawling garbage-bag town.
look at critically or searchingly, or in minute detail
After the plane landed, I was the first to see the white parents, but I could not stop to
scrutinize them and guess which belonged to me.
present at birth but not necessarily hereditary
The doctors took one look at my skin and spoke among themselves, wondering if my spots might be the result of a terrible disease called
remote in manner
Before that moment I had remained
aloof from her, but now everything had changed.
marked by uncontrolled excitement or emotion
I was almost
delirious with joy, knowing that my dream might someday come true.
openly distrustful and unwilling to confide
I trusted my new papa immediately, but I was
leery of the younger men.
feeling great rapture or delight
That first day, as I wandered through the house that belonged to my new family, I was
ecstatic to discover the inground pool, and I begged to swim.
be driven or carried along, as by the air
When he touched the white and black keys on the piano, music
wafted out of the instrument, and Mia’s face lit with joy.
a street of small shops, especially in the Middle East
It was like the
bazaar in Makeni—only it was indoors, cleaner, and better.
a tight, stretchy garment worn by gymnasts and dancers
When it came time for my first ballet lesson, I dreaded wearing a
position in which the dancer has one leg raised behind
I expected us to immediately move on to greater things, like
arabesques, grands jetés, and pirouettes, but we couldn’t.
a rapid spin of the body
I expected us to immediately move on to greater things, like arabesques, grands jetés, and
pirouettes, but we couldn’t.
a sleeveless dress resembling an apron
Mama had sewn red velvet dresses with white eyelet
pinafores for Mia and me.
It was such an
intoxicating feeling that I knew I could not live without it.
the ability to raise the working leg high in the air
Suzanne Slenn, my ballet teacher, said, “You were fortunate to have been born with naturally great
extension and talent. I expect more of you because of that.”
strikingly strange or unusual
I suggested that she change her name to something more
exotic, like Svetlana, Tatiana, or Natalia, names of Russia’s most famous ballerinas.
unwillingness to respect differences in opinions or beliefs
I didn’t know anything about racial
intolerance then, but I learned about it soon enough.
intolerance and prejudice
My earliest experience of
bigotry occurred in my own front yard.
a partiality preventing objective consideration of an issue
At the time I didn’t understand that there was racial
prejudice in America, so I was confused about why the neighbor didn’t want anyone to see us.
a series of actions tending toward a particular end
It was the story of how six-year-old Ruby Bridges led the
crusade to integrate the schools in New Orleans.
open up to members of all races and ethnic groups
It was the story of how six-year-old Ruby Bridges led the crusade to
integrate the schools in New Orleans.
a law officer having duties similar to those of a sheriff
Some of the white people in her neighborhood even walked behind the federal
marshal’s car when Ruby went to school.
relating or appealing to wealthy or high-status consumers
While living in New York City, we read reports of racial profiling in
upscale stores, even reports of warrantless searches and pat-downs of black shoppers.
a partiality preventing objective consideration of an issue
However, there is one form of racial discrimination that I am unable to ignore, and that is the racial
bias in the world of ballet.
of recognized authority or excellence
I began peppering my parents with questions that they couldn’t answer, such as “Why are there lots of black dancers in the contemporary companies, but not in the
classical and neoclassical companies that tell the stories that I love so much?”
a social club for female undergraduates
A friend of my mother’s had once told me that to get into the best black
sororities in college, you had to have skin lighter than the brown bags used in supermarkets, and she had failed the “brown paper bag test.”
having momentous consequences; of decisive importance
However, those words still terrified me to the point that I worried endlessly about the
fateful day when I’d reach puberty and grow a big butt and big thighs.
of little substance or significance
I didn’t need something as
trivial as jealousy to bring me down.
offering little or no hope
After escaping Sierra Leone, we arrived at this
bleak United Nations refugee camp in Guinea before moving to the safe house.
compose a sequence of dance steps, often to music
Leaping over Mia in the dance I
choreographed to the music from Pirates of the Caribbean.