Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club" Chapter 1

Vocabulary study list for Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club" (Chapter 1).

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. deplete
    use up, as resources or materials
    When the train pulled out of Hangzhou the next day, the Hsus found themselves depleted of some nine thousand dollars worth of goodwill.
  2. leftovers
    food remaining from a previous meal
    "We were a city of leftovers mixed together.
  3. wispy
    thin and weak
    A friend once told me that my mother and I were alike, that we had the same wispy hand gestures, the same girlish laugh and sideways look.
  4. embroider
    decorate with needlework
    She and Auntie An-mei were dressed up in funny Chinese dresses with stiff stand-up collars and blooming branches of embroidered silk sewn over their breasts.
  5. exasperate
    make furious
    Auntie Lin looks exasperated, as though I were a simple child: "How can we play with just three people?
  6. dangle
    hang freely
    How long can you see in your mind arms and legs hanging from telephone wires and starving dogs running down the streets with half-chewed hands dangling from their jaws?
  7. evict
    expel or eject without recourse to legal process
    So now I know Auntie Yings daughter, Lena, told her about my being evicted from my apartment on lower Russian Hill.
  8. nondescript
    lacking distinct or individual characteristics
    "Will you look at that," he says, pointing to another nondescript picture.
  9. translucent
    allowing light to pass through diffusely
    The white chenille bedspreads are so worn they are almost translucent.
  10. gruel
    a thin porridge
    She traded that gruel for two feet from a pig.
  11. amaze
    affect with wonder
    And always, I would be amazed to find the hills against the burning sky had not been torn apart.
  12. bloat
    swelling of the intestinal tract of animals caused by gas
    We ate sparingly, not as if we didnt have enough, but to protest how we could not eat another bite, we had already bloated ourselves from earlier in the day.
  13. scurry
    move about or proceed hurriedly
    When the sirens cried out to warn us of bombers, my neighbors and I jumped to our feet and scurried to the deep caves to hide like wild animals.
  14. cerebral
    of or relating to the brain
    The doctor said she died of a cerebral aneurysm.
  15. meager
    deficient in amount or quality or extent
    "What fine food we treated ourselves to with our meager allowances!
  16. blurt
    utter impulsively
    We have something important to tell you, from your mother," Auntie Ying blurts out in her too-loud voice.
  17. vat
    a large open vessel for holding or storing liquids
    The peaks looked like giant fried fish heads trying to jump out of a vat of oil.
  18. dutiful
    willingly obedient out of a sense of respect
    "Her dutiful nature to family."
  19. savor
    a particular taste or smell, especially an appealing one
    They are not like the ladies of Kweilin, who I always imagined savored their food with a certain detached delicacy.
  20. somber
    grave or even gloomy in character
    What was worse, we asked among ourselves, to sit and wait for our own deaths with proper somber faces?
  21. oblivious
    lacking conscious awareness of
    Listening now to Auntie Lin bragging about the virtues of her family in China, I realize that Auntie Lin is oblivious to Auntie An-meis pain.
  22. jagged
    having a sharply uneven surface or outline
    "I dreamed of jagged peaks lining a curving river, with magic moss greening the banks.
  23. fracture
    breaking of hard tissue such as bone
    They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English.
  24. buffet
    piece of furniture that stands at the side of a dining room
    There are piles of food on the table, served buffet style, just like at the Kweilin feasts.
  25. halting
    limping; disabled in the feet or legs
    "I think your mother die with an important thought on her mind," she says in halting English.
  26. morsel
    a small amount of solid food; a mouthful
    As if on cue, the women peck at last morsels and then carry plates and bowls to the kitchen and dump them in the sink.
  27. pall
    burial garment in which a corpse is wrapped
    It was the story she would always tell me when she was bored, when there was nothing to do, when every bowl had been washed and the Formica table had been wiped down twice, when my father sat reading the newspaper and smoking one Pall Mall cigarett
  28. fragile
    easily broken or damaged or destroyed
    My mother could sense that the women of these families also had unspeakable tragedies they had left behind in China and hopes they couldnt begin to express in their fragile English.
  29. spine
    the series of vertebrae forming the axis of the skeleton and protecting the spinal cord
    "Shes not stupid," said my mother on one occasion, "but she has no spine.
  30. trophy
    something given as a token of victory
    From the time we were babies, our mothers compared the creases in our belly buttons, how shapely our earlobes were, how fast we healed when we scraped our knees, how thick and dark our hair, how many shoes we wore out in one year, and later, how smart Wav
  31. translate
    restate from one language into another language
    We translated each others meanings and I seemed to hear less than what was said, while my mother heard more.
  32. vertical
    at right angles to the plane of the horizon or a base line
    In perfectly straight vertical rows I see Chinese characters written in blue fountain-pen ink.
  33. fume
    a cloud of fine particles suspended in a gas
    "I was chiszle," she says, still fuming, "mad to death."
  34. compress
    squeeze or press together
    Too many Chinese meals cooked in a too small kitchen, too many once fragrant smells compressed onto a thin layer of invisible grease.
  35. sequence
    a following of one thing after another in time
    I rearrange my tiles, sequences of bamboo and balls, doubles of colored number tiles, odd tiles that do not fit anywhere.
  36. compose
    form the substance of
    The society was composed of a group of white-haired American missionary ladies from the First Chinese Baptist Church.
  37. starve
    die of food deprivation
    Something inside of you starts to fade and you become like a starving person, crazy-hungry for light.
  38. percent
    a proportion in relation to a whole
    When I shyly told my mother this, she seemed insulted and said, "You dont even know little percent of me!
  39. fragrant
    My table was from my family and was of a very fragrant red wood, not what you call rosewood, but hong mu, which is so fine theres no English word for it.
  40. cultivate
    adapt something wild to the environment
    At first my mother tried to cultivate some hidden genius in me.
  41. calendar
    a system of timekeeping that defines divisions of the year
    Only the scroll-length calendar, free from the Bank of Canton, changes every year.
  42. overseas
    beyond or across the ocean
    They had all brought their mothers-in-law and children, and even their village friends who were not lucky enough to have overseas Chinese relatives to show off.
  43. discard
    anything that is cast aside
    Auntie An-mei is rubbing her tile carefully before discarding it.
  44. miniature
    being on a very small scale
    One was crammed with Sees Nuts & Chews, M & Ms, candy-coated cashews, instant hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows.
  45. dialect
    the usage or vocabulary characteristic of a group of people
    She spoke Mandarin slightly blurred with a Shanghai dialect.
  46. guise
    an artful or simulated semblance
    Still, what little we say to one another often comes back in another guise.
  47. psychology
    the science of mental life
    In my twenties, while taking Introduction to Psychology, I tried to tell her why she shouldnt criticize so much, why it didnt lead to a healthy learning environment.
  48. ignore
    refuse to acknowledge
    Nor could they ignore the old ladies practical advice to improve their English through Bible study class on Wednesday nights and, later, through choir practice on Saturday mornings.
  49. celebrate
    have a festivity
    But after sixteen rounds, we would again feast, this time to celebrate our good fortune.
  50. collapse
    break down, literally or metaphorically
    I could only see the dripping bowels of an ancient hill that might collapse on top of me.
  51. rhythm
    an interval during which a recurring sequence occurs
    And as she began to roll with one sweeping rhythm, she would start her story.
  52. detached
    no longer connected or joined
    They are not like the ladies of Kweilin, who I always imagined savored their food with a certain detached delicacy.
  53. strew
    spread by scattering
    But later that day, the streets of Kweilin were strewn with newspapers reporting great Kuomintang victories, and on top of these papers, like fresh fish from a butcher, lay rows of people—men, women, and children who had never lost hope, but had
  54. identical
    being the exact same one
    Except for the smell of camphor, it feels the same—as if Rose, Ruth, and Janice might soon walk in with their hair rolled up in big orange-juice cans and plop down on their identical narrow beds.
  55. inspire
    serve as the inciting cause of
    I wonder what Auntie An-mei did to inspire a lifelong stream of criticism from my mother.
  56. ignored
    So she ignored my mothers advice and took the heavy bags and their two thousand dollars to China.
  57. monstrous
    distorted and unnatural in shape or size
    And then the clouds would move just a little and the hills would suddenly become monstrous elephants marching slowly toward me!
  58. amazed
    filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise
    And always, I would be amazed to find the hills against the burning sky had not been torn apart.
  59. replace
    put something back where it belongs
    I am to replace my mother, whose seat at the mah jong table has been empty since she died two months ago.
  60. detach
    cause to become separated
    They are not like the ladies of Kweilin, who I always imagined savored their food with a certain detached delicacy.
  61. cautious
    showing careful forethought
    Even though Lena and I are still friends, we have grown naturally cautious about telling each other too much.
  62. technique
    a practical method or art applied to some particular task
    Uncle George is dealing out cards, fast, as though he learned this technique in a casino.
  63. cage
    an enclosure in which animals can be kept
    Until one could see cages of ducklings now quiet with thirst and, later still, silver urns lying in the road, where people had been too tired to carry them for any kind of future hope.
  64. announce
    make known
    Never on time!" he announces.
  65. banquet
    a ceremonial dinner party for many people
    "People thought we were wrong to serve banquets every week while many people in the city were starving, eating rats and, later, the garbage that the poorest rats used to feed on.
  66. delicacy
    the quality of being exquisitely fine in appearance
    They are not like the ladies of Kweilin, who I always imagined savored their food with a certain detached delicacy.

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