expel, as if by official decree
It was degrading to play with girls and in our talk we
relegated them to a remote island of life.
walk leisurely and with no apparent aim
Of an afternoon when school had let out I would
saunter down the street, idly kicking an empty tin can, or knocking a stick against the palings of a wooden fence, or whistling, until I would stumble upon one or more of the gang loitering at a corner, standing in a field, or sitting upon the steps of somebody’s house.
expect, believe, or suppose
reckon these white folks is ever gonna change?”
collect discarded or refused material
When the men did not finish their lunches, I would
salvage what few crumbs remained.
make peace with
I had had no intention of letting her hear me curse, but since she had heard me and since there was no way to
appease her, I decided to let things develop as they would.
foul and run-down and repulsive
I looked at him and did not answer; there flashed through my mind a quick, running picture of all the
squalid hovels in which I had lived and it made me feel more than ever a stranger as I stood before him.
a strong liking
At the age of twelve, before I had had one full year of formal schooling, I had a conception of life that no experience would ever erase, a
predilection for what was real that no argument could ever gainsay, a sense of the world that was mine and mine alone, a notion as to what life meant that no education could ever alter, a conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering.
confess one's faith in, or allegiance to
My position in the household was a delicate one; I was a minor, an uninvited dependent, a blood relative who
professed no salvation and whose soul stood in mortal peril.
without material form or substance
I became skilled in ignoring these cosmic threats and developed a callousness toward all
a person who does not acknowledge your god
If I refused, I was placing myself not only in the position of a horrible
infidel but of a hardhearted ingrate.
smother or suppress
Perhaps my uneasy childhood, perhaps my shifting from town to town, perhaps the violence I had already seen and felt took hold of me, and I was trying to
stifle the impulse to go to the drawer of the kitchen table and get a knife and defend myself.
failing in what duty requires
She was the oldest member of her church and it would have been unseemly if the only grandchild in her home could not be brought to these important services; she felt that if I were completely
remiss in religious conformity it would cast doubt upon the stanchness of her faith, her capacity to convince and persuade, or merely upon her ability to apply the rod to my backside.
driven by lust
If my desires had been converted into a concrete religious symbol, the symbol would have looked something like this: a black imp with two horns; a long, curving, forked tail; cloven hoofs, a scaly, naked body; wet, sticky fingers; moist, sensual lips; and
lascivious eyes feasting upon the face of the elder’s wife.
lessen the intensity of or calm
With my bright idea bubbling in my mind, wishing to
allay Granny’s fears for my soul, wanting to make her know that my heart was not all black and wrong, that I was actually giving serious thought to her passionate pleadings, I leaned to her and whispered:
Then I babbled, speaking with emotional reproof,
censuring her for having misunderstood me; I must have spoken more loudly and harshly than was called for—the others had now gathered about me and Granny—for Granny drew away from me abruptly and went to a far corner of the church and stared at me with a cold, set face.
a feeling of excessive concern
solicitude they dropped to coldness and hostility.
spend thoughtlessly; throw away
Only my mother, who had in the meantime recovered somewhat, maintained her interest in me, urging me to study hard and make up for
in a composed and unconcerned manner
With pencil and tablet, I walked
nonchalantly into the schoolyard, wearing a cheap, brand-new straw hat.
conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
When I returned home at night, I would go to my room and lock the door and revel in
outlandish exploits of
outlandish men in faraway,
grossly irreverent toward what is held to be sacred
I must have sounded reekingly
blasphemous, for Granny said, “Shut up, you!” and leaned forward promptly to chastise me with one of her casual, back-handed slaps on my mouth.
praise, glorify, or honor
Brother Mance would pace the floor,
extolling my abilities with pen and paper.
something that is desirable, favorable, or beneficial
You may be assured that your sacrifice has been a
boon and a solace to your country.
express criticism towards
Whenever he walked into my presence I became silent, waiting for him to speak, wondering if he were going to
upbraid me for something.
exacting especially about details
Fearing that my family might think I was
finicky, I lied to them, telling them that the white woman had already hired a boy.
not disposed or willing to believe; unbelieving
“Where are you from?” she asked incredulously.
abusive language used to express blame or censure
As they hurled
invectives, they barely looked at each other.
quick and energetic
“Now, you young men,” he began in a
brisk, clipped tone, “I want all of you to know God.
cause to become awake or conscious
One morning I was
roused by my uncle’s voice calling gently but persistently.
improperly forward or bold
impudent black rascal!” he thundered.
something of small importance
How long was I going to be beaten for
trifles and less than