List 1

After they move from the Dominican Republic to New York City, the four García sisters are caught between the expectations of their traditional parents and their own desire to assimilate to American culture.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. phalanx
    any closely ranked crowd of people
    When their squabbles reach a certain mother-annoying level, they are called away by their nursemaids, who sit on stools at the far end of the patio, a phalanx of starched white uniforms.
  2. missionary
    someone who attempts to convert others to a doctrine
    Before anyone has turned to greet her in the entryway, Yolanda sees herself as they will, shabby in a black cotton skirt and jersey top, sandals on her feet, her wild black hair held back with a hairband. Like a missionary, her cousins will say, like one of those Peace Corps girls who have let themselves go so as to do dubious good in the world.
  3. dubious
    open to doubt or suspicion
    Before anyone has turned to greet her in the entryway, Yolanda sees herself as they will, shabby in a black cotton skirt and jersey top, sandals on her feet, her wild black hair held back with a hairband. Like a missionary, her cousins will say, like one of those Peace Corps girls who have let themselves go so as to do dubious good in the world.
  4. mince
    make less severe or harsh
    "You look terrible," Lucinda says. "Too thin, and the hair needs a cut. Nothing personal." She is the cousin who has never minced her words.
  5. barrio
    a district in a Spanish-speaking country
    Suddenly the car jerks forward and dies, right there on the street. I'm alarmed, you know, the way things are, a big car stalled in the middle of the university barrio.
  6. facsimile
    an exact copy or reproduction
    She addresses a woman whose aging face is less familiar to Yolanda than the child's facsimile.
  7. quip
    a witty saying
    "Older, not wiser." Carmencita's quip in English is the product of her two or three years away in boarding school in the States.
  8. trellis
    latticework used to support climbing plants
    The late sun sifts through the bougainvillea trained to climb the walls of the patio, to thread across the trellis roof, to pour down magenta and purple blossoms.
  9. escapade
    a wild and exciting undertaking
    Back in their adolescent days during summer visits, the four girls used to shock their Island cousins with stories of their escapades in the States.
  10. taper
    give a point to
    Her fingers are long and tapered; her wedding and engagement rings have been welded together into one thick band.
  11. brook
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    "There have been some incidents lately," Tía Carmen says in a quiet voice that does not brook contradiction.
  12. cede
    relinquish possession or control over
    Small arguments erupt over dividing the cake's cities: Lucinda's two boys both want Santiago since they went gliding there last weekend; Lucinda's girl and Carmencita's girl both insist on the capital because that's where they were born, but one agrees to cede the capital if she can have La Romana, where the family has a beach house.
  13. undertow
    a current that flows away from the shore after waves break
    When she first hears it, she thinks it is her own motor she has forgotten to turn off, but the sound grows into a pained roar, as if the engine were falling apart. Yolanda makes out an undertow of men's voices.
  14. veranda
    a porch along the outside of a building
    Beyond him up the shady driveway is a three-story country house, a wide verandah all the way around it.
  15. corrugated
    shaped into alternating parallel grooves and ridges
    A small village spreads out before her—ALTAMIRA, say the rippling letters on the corrugated tin roof of the first house.
  16. luxuriate
    enjoy to excess
    A creamy, blond woman luxuriates under a refreshing shower, her head thrown back in seeming ecstasy, her mouth opened in a wordless cry.
  17. desolate
    providing no shelter or sustenance
    They turn onto a bumpy road off the highway, which grows bumpier and bumpier as it climbs up into wilder, more desolate country.
  18. loath
    strongly opposed
    Finally, with a great snapping of twigs and thrashing of branches across the windshield, as if the countryside is loath to release them, the car bursts forth onto smooth pavement and the light of day.
  19. appease
    cause to be more favorably inclined; gain the good will of
    She hurries José back to the car, where they find a heap of guavas the other boys left behind on the shoulder of the road. Enough guavas to appease even the greediest Island santo for life!
  20. collusion
    secret agreement
    The two men exchange a look—it seems to Yolanda—of collusion.
  21. render
    cause to become
    The two men stare at her, uncomprehending, rendered docile by her gibberish.
  22. docile
    willing to be taught or led or supervised or directed
    The two men stare at her, uncomprehending, rendered docile by her gibberish.
  23. sheaf
    a package of several things tied together
    She rummages in her purse and draws out a sheaf of bills, rolls them up and offers them to the men.
  24. machete
    a large knife used as a weapon or for cutting vegetation
    The two men pick up their machetes and raise them to their shoulders like soldiers their guns.
  25. maverick
    independent in behavior or thought
    He had always had problems with his maverick youngest, and her running off hadn't helped.
  26. tentative
    hesitant or lacking confidence; unsettled in mind or opinion
    It gave solace to the third daughter, who was always so tentative and terrified and had such troubles with men.
  27. placate
    cause to be more favorably inclined
    Usually, in her growing-up tantrums, this daughter would storm out of the house and come back hours later, placated, the sweetness in her nature reasserted, bearing silly gifts for everyone in the family, refrigerator magnets, little stuffed hairballs with roll-around eyeballs.
  28. relent
    give in, as to influence or pressure
    Last minute, the father relented and went along, but he might as well have stayed away.
  29. coup
    a brilliant and notable success
    It was a coup for the youngest daughter to have gathered the scattered family in the Midwest for a weekend. But the real coup was how Sofía had managed to have the husbands included this year.
  30. placard
    a sign posted in a public place
    The band arrived, three middle-aged men, each with a silver wave slicked back with too much hair cream. DANNY AND HIS BOYS set up a placard with their name against the fireplace.
  31. maraca
    a rattle-like instrument that is shaken to make noise
    There was one on an accordion, another on a fiddle, and a third was miscellaneous on maracas and triangle and drums when needed.
  32. buffet
    piece of furniture that stands at the side of a dining room
    There was a big chocolate cake in the shape of a heart set out on the long buffet with seventy-one candles—one for good luck.
  33. oblige
    provide a service or favor for someone
    They'd been playing party games on and off all night. The band obliged with musical chairs, but after two of the dining room chairs were broken, they left off playing.
  34. impinge
    infringe upon
    Surrounded by his daughters and their husbands and fancy, intelligent, high-talking friends, he seemed to be realizing that he was just an old man sitting in their houses, eating up their roast lamb, impinging upon their lives.
  35. coy
    affectedly shy especially in a playful or provocative way
    There she sat, pretty and slim as a girl, smiling coyly at everyone when a song was dedicated to her.
Created on February 18, 2019 (updated February 20, 2019)

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