Part 1

An unflinching look at the brutality of the American slave trade, Draper's novel tells the story of Amari, a young African girl who is enslaved.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. chant
    utter monotonously and repetitively and rhythmically
    Kwasi snatched back the coconut and ran off then, laughing and making kissing noises as he chanted, “Besa my love, Besa my love, Besa my love!”
  2. gait
    a person's manner of walking
    She headed there, walking leisurely, with just the slightest awareness of a certain new roundness to her hips and smoothness to her gait as she waited for Besa to catch up with her.
  3. betrothed
    pledged to be married
    Amari and Besa had been formally betrothed to each other last year.
  4. intently
    with strained or eager attention
    Amari looked intently at his face and realized he was worried.
  5. festivity
    any joyous diversion
    “Your father and the rest of the elders will decide, but I’m sure the visit of such strangers will be cause for much festivity.”
  6. pungent
    strong and sharp to the sense of taste or smell
    Throughout the village, the pungent smells of goat stew and peanut soup, along with waves of papaya and honeysuckle that wafted through the air, made Amari feel hungry as well as excited.
  7. astonishing
    surprising greatly
    Everyone in the village came out of their houses to see the astonishing sight—pale, unhealthy-looking men who carried large bundles and unusual-looking sticks as they marched into the center of the village.
  8. hospitality
    kindness in welcoming guests or strangers
    However, the unusual-looking men were accompanied by warriors from the Ashanti tribe, men of her own land, men her people had known and traded with, so even if the village elders were concerned, it would be unacceptable not to show hospitality.
  9. dignity
    the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect
    Heroism is the dignity of our ancestors, and, in their name, we welcome you.
  10. frenzy
    state of violent mental agitation
    Their bodies swayed, their hands clapped, their feet stomped in a glorious frenzy, all to the rhythm of the drums.
  11. succession
    a following of one thing after another in time
    More explosions followed in rapid succession, then everyone was screaming.
  12. anguish
    extreme distress of body or mind
    Amari’s mother screamed in anguish and bit her captor’s hand.
  13. acrid
    strong and sharp, as a taste or smell
    The smell of sharp, acrid smoke, not of gentle hearth fires, but of the flames of destruction, followed them.
  14. vain
    unproductive of success
    Kwasi held her hand tighter and they ran even faster, Amari trying in vain to be as invisible and swift as the wind.
  15. shackle
    a restraint that confines or restricts freedom
    Her arms were wrenched behind her, and iron shackles with heavy, rusty chains between them were snapped onto her wrists, holding them there.
  16. consume
    destroy completely
    All of the homes had been burned, their roofs of thatch and walls of reeds consumed by the fire.
  17. rite
    any customary observance or practice
    The charred and bloodied bodies of relatives remained where they had fallen, with no one to perform proper rites for burials, no one to say the prayers for the dead.
  18. lurch
    move abruptly
    Once the villagers were all linked, a white face pulled the first person with a rope, and those linked to him lurched forward as well.
  19. comprehend
    get the meaning of something
    As she walked, she tried but couldn’t comprehend the incredible cruelty of the men who had done this.
  20. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    Her back was soon a patchwork of welts from being whipped when she could not keep up with the rest.
  21. engulf
    flow over or cover completely
    The smell engulfed her next—the odor of sweat and fear, of body wastes and hopelessness.
  22. grateful
    feeling or showing thankfulness
    She could not remember the last time she had eaten, so when the guards tossed some chunks of bread through the opening, she was grateful.
  23. vacant
    void of thought or knowledge
    She showed Amari how to walk with a limp and look with a vacant, stupid stare to make sure the soldiers would pass her by when they looked for women to come to their rooms.
  24. pierce
    penetrate or cut through with a sharp instrument
    Intense, fiery pain pierced the sweaty softness of the skin above her left shoulder.
  25. subside
    wear off or die down
    The salve must have been effective, for the intense pain gradually subsided and was replaced by a duller throbbing that would not go away.
  26. distributed
    spread out or scattered about or divided up
    It had been a long time since they had been given anything to eat, and she was amazed when the holding pen was opened and generous portions of water and food—fresh fruit, boiled cassava, and some kind of fish stew—were distributed to them.
  27. negotiation
    a discussion intended to produce an agreement
    They had been won in battle or traded in negotiations between villages and tribes.
  28. endure
    undergo or be subjected to
    She thought of Kwasi, the little bird who would never fly again, but, in a way, she was glad he would not have to endure any of these horrors.
  29. devour
    destroy completely
    Bubbling, churning, even leaping onto the land, it seemed to Amari that the ocean was reaching out to grab and devour her.
  30. longing
    prolonged unfulfilled desire or need
    She looked back with longing at the land of her birth.
  31. lament
    a song or hymn of mourning as a memorial to a dead person
    It was the lament sung at a funeral—a death song.
  32. fetid
    offensively malodorous
    They were whipped and chained and led back to the fetid dungeon where they had been all night.
  33. rueful
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    In spite of her injuries, Afi managed to twist her lips into a rueful laugh.
  34. humiliation
    depriving one of self-esteem
    This is just the beginning of many nights of horrible humiliation.
  35. douse
    wet thoroughly
    Every morning the women were fed, doused with salt water, and made to dance.
  36. emaciated
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    Rats, now grown huge and healthy, chewed on the emaciated bodies of some of the men chained there.
  37. bemoan
    regret strongly
    Too weak to move, she lay huddled in a ball, bemoaning the fact that she was still alive.
  38. molest
    harass or assault sexually; make indecent advances to
    The sailors were no longer allowed to molest the women at night.
  39. retaliation
    action taken in return for an injury or offense
    Besa glared at him, but he understood the danger of retaliation.
  40. sullen
    showing a brooding ill humor
    The girl had a sullen look on her face, and she seemed to be the only person not interested in what was going on at the slave sale.
Created on September 3, 2013 (updated April 4, 2019)

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