List 6

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. vermilion
    of a vivid red to reddish-orange color
    There was no arguing with Doña Charito over the color of the vermilion coral in the umber depths of the aquamarine oceans.
  2. guttural
    relating to or articulated in the throat
    She grappled the brush from your hand and showed you how, all the while barking instructions in her guttural Spanish, which made you feel that you were mispronouncing your native tongue because you did not speak it with her heavy German accent.
  3. earmark
    give or assign a resource to a particular person or cause
    Every year, the government awarded European scholarships, each one earmarked for a certain needed profession, and if you won one and were poor, you accepted for the chance to eat three meals a day, one of them hot.
  4. cadaver
    the dead body of a human being
    Between meals, Don José sketched rather than dissected the cadavers and caught up on his sleep on a bench below a Gauguin and alongside several Van Goghs in the Prado.
  5. illustrious
    widely known and esteemed
    Whatever I, Sandra Isabel García de la Torre, was, personally, was as a dolly on wheels to roll that illustrious de la Torre name from social gathering to social gathering.
  6. hitherto
    up to this point; until the present time
    "Gifted" descended upon my hitherto unremarkable shoulders like a coat of many colors.
  7. pretext
    a fictitious reason that conceals the real reason
    She made a pretext of cutting up my meat, and as she cut, she whispered in bite-sized phrases: "Please...Señ must...come house."
  8. shanty
    a small crude shelter used as a dwelling
    After the meal, I snuck out to the forbidden part of the property where the servants' families lived in their little shanty shacks.
  9. chalet
    an alpine house or cottage with a steeply sloping roof
    The German lady, who lived in the two-story chalet at the edge of town.
  10. imposing
    impressive in appearance
    Before us stood a mountain of a woman who looked even more imposing because of the brightly colored Hawaiian shift she wore.
  11. culpable
    deserving blame or censure as being wrong or injurious
    "You!" She pointed at me. "You are the culpable one!"
  12. genuflect
    bend the knees and bow in a servile manner
    I nodded and curtsied. We all curtsied. But it was more like genuflecting in her presence.
  13. rudiment
    the elementary stage of any subject
    With a pelting of pebbles, they disappeared down the drive, and we children were left alone with Doña Charito to learn "the roodiments of art."
  14. finicky
    fussy, especially about details
    Doña Charito dipped her brush into a jar of water and made all manner of finicky, tidying up, tapping noises on the brim, like a nursemaid spooning mouthfuls for a difficult baby.
  15. venial
    warranting only temporal punishment
    The Catholic sisters at Our Lady Of Perpetual Sorrows Convent School were teaching me to sort the world like laundry into what was wrong and right, what was venial, what, if you died in the middle of enjoying, would send you straight to hell.
  16. tableau
    any dramatic scene
    Before I could ever get to my life, conscience was arranging it all like a still life or tableau.
  17. strew
    spread by scattering
    I crossed a high hibiscus hedge through an unlatched gate and came upon a muddy backyard, strewn with logs and stumps like a carpenter's yard.
  18. saucy
    improperly forward or bold
    Once, a saucy nursemaid had informed me that, in embroidered linens with the lights off and the fans going, my fine de la Torre mother had gotten me no differently.
  19. rivet
    direct one's attention on something
    Tap-tap-tap, his hand beat on the glass as if to hold my attention so he could study me a little longer, tap-tap-tap. There was no need for that; my eyes were riveted to his face, and my mouth opened in a voiceless scream.
  20. transpire
    come about, happen, or occur
    "What has transpired?" she cried, but her voice betrayed genuine concern.
  21. repertoire
    a collection of works that an artist or company can perform
    One could not say her face softened, for softness was not in her repertoire of expressions.
  22. creche
    a representation of Christ's nativity at Bethlehem
    Christmas Eve, along with the rest of the de la Torre children, I was taken to the National Cathedral for the nativity pageant where the new creche was to be unveiled.
  23. acolyte
    a devoted follower or assistant
    The side doors of the Cathedral burst open and out came a procession of priests and nuns and acolytes, clacking their censers, sending up the fragrance of myrrh and frankincense the three kings had brought over with them from the Orient.
  24. manna
    food that God gave the Israelites during the Exodus
    Sandi and Yoyo exchanged triumphant looks and skipped off, hand in hand, to tell our cousins next door that Papi was back with a wonderful surprise from New York City, where it was winter and the snow fell from heaven to earth like the Bible's little pieces of manna bread.
  25. litany
    a prayer led by clergy with responses from the congregation
    Her complaints were different from Chucha's. They were bitter and snuck up on you even during the nicest conversations. Chucha's were a daily litany, sometimes cried out at the dog, sometimes scolded at the rice kettle she had to scrub, sometimes mumbled under her breath at Doña Laura, whose diapers she had changed and whose actions, therefore, she had a right to criticize.
  26. alight
    settle or come to rest
    Gladys's gaze wandered around the room, taking in the clutter of new toys before alighting fondly on the shelf.
  27. apoplectic
    marked by extreme anger
    And then, I brought down an apocalyptic, apoplectic, joy-to-the-great-world drumroll that made Mamita throw her head back and laugh her loud, girlish laugh.
  28. injunction
    a judicial remedy to prohibit a party from doing something
    She was a curiosity and I, a curious child, I, with the promise of snow in my heart and the wonder of the world seizing me with such fury at times that I had to touch forbidden china cups or throttle a little cousin or pet a dog's head so strenuously that he looked as if he were coming out of the birth canal, I wanted nothing more than to get a temporary injunction from politeness and have a good long stare at her speckled arms.
  29. dowel
    a peg that holds two adjacent pieces together
    The day I wandered into the coal shed looking for trouble I had the drum on my hip and two little dowels for drumsticks.
  30. jodhpurs
    flared pants ending at the calves and worn with riding boots
    The man was a dashing, handsome, storybook kind of man, dressed in jodhpurs and riding boots.
  31. imperative
    some duty that is essential and urgent
    I did not know at the time the word for saying one thing and doing another, but I did know plenty of practicing adults, and I was not going to be gypped of a well-dressed kitten by a moral imperative given to me by an exception to the rule!
  32. hiatus
    an interruption in the intensity or amount of something
    Slowly, my left hand patting Schwarz to encourage a hiatus in her meowing, I worked the top off my drum with my right hand.
  33. spectral
    resembling or characteristic of a phantom
    Everything in the dark assumed a spectral appearance through white netting: a ghostly bureau, a ghostly toybox, ghostly curtains.
  34. gauzy
    so thin as to transmit light
    That night, sitting at the foot of my bed, poking her face in so that the gauzy net was molded to her features like an awful death mask, was the black mother cat.
  35. prone
    having a tendency
    I grew up, a curious woman, a woman of story ghosts and story devils, a woman prone to bad dreams and bad insomnia.
Created on February 18, 2019 (updated February 20, 2019)

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