the complete destruction of every trace of something
After all, as her mother points out, the only thing Felicia ever did for the revolution was pull a few dandelions during the weed-
eradication campaign in 1962, and then only reluctantly.
a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
Her lack of commitment is a source of great
rancor between them.
characteristic of an enemy or one eager to fight
Even the lowly weed pullers had boasted a
belligerent name: The Mechanized Offensive Brigade.
characterized by intense emotion
El Li'der, it seems, saves his most
ardent passions for the revolution.
an unvarying or habitual method or procedure
Reform, not punishment, is her
modus operandi, and Celia has succeeded in converting many young delinquents into productive revolutionaries.
lacking substance or significance
By the time Celia restores a
tenuous calm, she has come to a decision.
a controversy, especially over a belief or dogma
It’s as if Rogelio’s response has justified every
an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
The lines in his face look as if each one were put there by a distinct
calamity rather than a slow accumulation of sorrow.
not admitting of passage or capable of being affected
We’re a double helix, tight and
naive and easily deceived or tricked
He is her
gullible rag doll.
a run-down apartment house barely meeting minimal standards
Lourdes prefers to confront reality—the brownstones converted to
tenements in a matter of months, the garbage in the streets, the jaundice-eyed men staring vacantly from the stoops.
inspiring fear or dread
Dona Zaida, once a
formidable matriarch who ruled her eight sons by a resolute jealousy, spent long afternoons watching novelas on television and perfuming her thickening wrists.
of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor
Out went the ornate bric-a-brac, the
austere furniture carved with the family crest.
a building where birds are kept
Lourdes refilled the mosaic-lined fountain with sweet water and built an
aviary in the garden, stocking it with toucans and cockatoos, parrots, a macaw, and canaries that sang in high octaves.
intrusive in a meddling or offensive manner
A voice is talking to her now, calm and
an ethical system that values the pursuit of pleasure
They believed that
hedonism was the only way to get rid of their sins.
Later, Dad looked up the Manichaeans in the encyclopedia and discovered that, contrary to what Max claimed, the Manichaeans believed that the world and all matter were created by
nefarious forces, and that the only way to battle them was through asceticism and a pure life.
rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint
Later, Dad looked up the Manichaeans in the encyclopedia and discovered that, contrary to what Max claimed, the Manichaeans believed that the world and all matter were created by nefarious forces, and that the only way to battle them was through
asceticism and a pure life.
deviation from the normal or common order or form or rule
Even supposedly knowledgeable and sensitive people react to good art by a woman as if it were an
anomaly, a product of a freak nature or a direct result of her association with a male painter or mentor.
unpleasantly loud and harsh
She stands there, immobile, clutching the sheet against her silk blouse, when someone yells in
raucous Brooklynese, “Gaaahbage!
mix up or confuse
“Too much heat
addles the brain.”
characteristic of this world rather than the spiritual world
In Cuba, everything seemed
temporal, distorted by the sun.
having more than one possible meaning
Through the mouths of the cowries the gods speak to him in clear, unambiguous voices.
marked by extreme care in treatment of details
He combs his flaxen strands meticulously from the lower left side of his head to his right temple, then swirls them round and round on his bald crown, securing them with a greasy pomade.
characterized by extreme care and great effort
Ernesto, her gentle Ernesto, had been a restaurant inspector, renowned for his refusal to take bribes (neither money nor pork loins could tempt him) and for his
scrupulous campaign against mice feces.
excessively greedy and grasping
For three days they rocked in each other’s arms,
voracious and inseparable, speaking few words, but knowing all they needed to know.
presenting favorable circumstances
She waits until the moon is
propitious, then calls Graciela on the telephone, inviting her to the beauty shop for a free permanent.
capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action
She mixes lye with her own menstrual blood into a
caustic brown paste, then thickly coats Graciela’s head.
of or relating to or similar to bears
Felicia moves toward him, toward his tidy,
The thought of her daughter in bed with these men drives Lourdes to despair, to utter
relating to the relationship between a wife and husband
The hip-splitting pain, the blood on the
conjugal bed were proof of her virtue.
strong and sharp, as a taste
She can’t even look at it without her mouth filling with the
acrid saliva that precedes vomiting.
an insufficient quantity or number
Every day they grow more convinced that the
dearth of bad news about Cuba is a conspiracy by the leftist media to keep international support for El Lider strong.
Why can’t the Americans see the Communists in their own backyards, in their universities, bending the
malleable minds of the young?
Lourdes taunted the journalists who questioned her last year about the opening-day
fracas at the second Yankee Doodle Bakery.
I liked the sound of it, the
derision with which my mother pronounced it, and knew immediately it was what I wanted to become.
a company of companions or supporters
I heard one of my mother’s
cohorts boasting how last year he’d called in a bomb threat to the Metropolitan Opera House, where Alicia Alonso, the prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba and a supporter of El Lider, was scheduled to dance.
the accent in a metrical foot of verse
I think of Flaubert, who spent most of his adult life in the same French village, or Emily Dickinson, whose poems echoed the
cadence of the local church bells.
make known to the public information previously kept secret
The santeras had made eight cuts on her tongue with a razor blade so that the god could speak, but Felicia could not
divulge his words.
large deep serving dish with a cover
But when Felicia returned to Palmas Street with her sacred stones and her
tureen, her seashells and the implements of her saint, neither her mother nor her children were there to greet her.
to feel or express sympathy or compassion
Franco and I
commiserate about how St. Mark’s Place is a zoo these days with the bridge-and-tunnel crowd wearing fuchsia mohawks and safety pins through their cheeks.
a trinket thought to be a magical protection against evil
Iridescent oils are displayed with amulets,
strong and sharp to the sense of taste
Apothecary jars labeled in childish block letters are filled with
generally incompetent and ineffectual
When Chango found out, he tracked down his
inept accomplice to the foot of a palm tree.
emitting light without appreciable heat
I’m walking naked as a beam of light along brick paths and squares of grass,
phosphorescent and clean.