Chapters 48–67

Ten-year-old Mia Tang lives and works at the motel where her immigrant parents are employed. Together, Mia and her family strive to make a better life for themselves — and for other immigrants in their community.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. syntax
    the study of the rules for forming admissible sentences
    I worked on the letter all night long, making sure the tone, punctuation, and syntax was all right.
  2. smother
    deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
    The threat grabbed me and smothered me as I ran all the way home.
  3. raspy
    unpleasantly harsh or grating in sound
    The manager was an old guy with a raspy voice.
  4. humble
    marked by meekness or modesty; not arrogant or prideful
    There’s a saying in Chinese that goes “Never forget how much rice you eat.” It’s a reminder to stay humble, to stay real.
  5. ecstatic
    feeling great rapture or delight
    “Quite the contrary. A moment that meant everything,” Mrs. Douglas said. “Think of a time when you were ecstatic or terrified, and really zoom in so we know exactly what it felt like.”
  6. bureau
    furniture with drawers for keeping clothes
    My eyes slid down to the bag underneath my parents’ bureau: the lucky pennies.
  7. curdle
    go bad or sour
    My blood curdled when I saw her. I looked down at my jeans—her jeans—as the girl and her mom stepped into the front office.
  8. gawk
    look with amazement
    I quickly looked over at Mr. Yao, but he was too busy gawking at me like I was a criminal to notice where my parents had gone.
  9. resent
    feel bitter or indignant about
    I resented the way he looked at me, like he knew me so well, when in fact he knew nothing about me.
  10. conviction
    an unshakable belief in something without need for proof
    “You’re saying these are your jeans?”
    “Yes,” I insisted, with as much conviction as I could muster.
  11. muster
    summon up, call forth, or bring together
    “You’re saying these are your jeans?”
    “Yes,” I insisted, with as much conviction as I could muster.
  12. hoard
    get or gather together
    I snagged chicken, shrimp, whatever I could pick up with my chopsticks and hoarded it all in my mouth.
  13. rig
    arrange the outcome of by means of deceit
    “No, honey!” she said. “I mean those sweepstakes are all rigged!!”
  14. barnacle
    marine crustacean with feathery food-catching appendages
    I always thought I was the one who needed her, that I was the barnacle to her whale.
  15. waver
    be unsure or weak
    As I read, my voice wavered. My throat was prickly, my lips dry. Still, I pushed forward in my tiny voice.
  16. waft
    blow gently
    The pizza at Pizza Hut was bubbling hot. My mouth watered before I even tasted it, just from the smell wafting toward us from the kitchen.
  17. morsel
    a small amount of solid food; a mouthful
    I closed my eyes, savoring every morsel of cheese and pepperoni.
  18. subside
    wear off or die down
    And his dad may have gotten a good job, but they’d still never flown in an airplane and never stayed in a hotel before.
    With every never, I felt my panic subside.
  19. cash cow
    a project that generates a continuous flow of money
    “No, you wouldn’t have to run it. We could run it for you. It’s a real cash cow this motel,” my mom said.
  20. inconsolable
    sad beyond comforting
    My mother was inconsolable that night.
  21. frugal
    avoiding waste
    Though he could afford to stay anywhere, Mr. Cooper still liked living frugally and that’s why he was at the Calivista.
  22. determination
    firmness of purpose
    I looked up at my dad. I had never seen so much determination and hope in his eyes.
  23. collateral
    a security pledged for the repayment of a loan
    “You understand for an amount this large, we’re going to need some collateral,” the oily boss of the loan sharks said to my dad.
  24. bluff
    deceive someone about your strength or intentions
    “He’s bluffing. There’s no other buyer. It’s just you guys. He’ll take a lot less for the motel.”
  25. scoff
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    Jason turned to his dad and asked if he could stay.
    Mr. Yao scoffed.
    “You don’t want to go swimming with these losers, do you?” he asked his son.
Created on January 29, 2019 (updated January 29, 2019)

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