"Inside Out and Back Again," Vocabulary from Part 2

Fleeing to America to escape the Vietnam War, Hà and her family end up in Alabama, where a strange new culture that they must adapt to awaits them in "Inside Out and Back Again" -- a novel written in verse by Thanhha Lai.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. route
    an established line of travel or access
    Our ship creeps along the river route without lights without cooking without bathrooms.
  2. embarrassment
    the shame felt when inadequacy or guilt is made public
    We are allowed into the commander’s cabin, where the bathroom is so white and clean, so worth the embarrassment.
  3. sardine
    small edible herring or related food fish frequently canned
    No one has offered to share what I smell: sardines, dried durian, salted eggs, toasted sesame.
    The list of edible foods here includes durian, which is considered the "king of fruits" because of its large size; but it also has thorns and a stinky smell that might discourage people who don't know about its creamy filling and delicious taste.
  4. according
    in agreement with
    Morning, noon, and night we each get one clump of rice, small, medium, large, according to our height
  5. idle
    not in action or at work
    Mother cannot allow idle children, hers or anyone else’s.
  6. stranded
    cut off or left behind
    Mother smooths back my hair, knowing the pain of a girl who loves snacks but is stranded on a ship.
  7. stench
    a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant
    He keeps clutching something in the left pocket, where the stench grows.
  8. putrid
    in an advanced state of decomposition and having a foul odor
    Neighbors complain, even the ones eight mats away, saying it’s bad enough being trapped in putrid, hot air made from fermented bodies and oily sweat
    Here, "putrid" and "fermented" are adjectives that describe a bad smell. But as a verb, "ferment" can describe turning sugar into alcohol or working someone up into a state of agitation or excitement.
  9. crooked
    having or marked by bends or angles; not straight or aligned
    A flattened chick lies crooked, neck dangling off his palm.
  10. exist
    have a presence
    South Vietnam no longer exists.
    In Latin, both "sistere" and "stare" mean "to stand"--so something that exists (verb) and is extant (adjective) still stands, unlike the fallen country of South Vietnam.
  11. overboard
    from a position on a vessel into the water
    One woman tries to throw herself overboard, screaming that without a country she cannot live.
  12. limp
    lacking in strength, firmness, or resilience
    Inside lies my mouse-bitten doll, her arms wrapped around the limp fuzzy body of his chick.
  13. regret
    feel sad about the loss or absence of
    Brother Khoi nods and I smile, but I regret not having my doll as soon as the white bundle sinks into the sea.
  14. gigantic
    so exceedingly large or extensive as to suggest a giant
    A gigantic ship with an American flag moves closer.
  15. composure
    steadiness of mind under stress
    I’m grateful the boat starts to rock, so Mother hasn’t the composure to scold me, not just yet.
    Fleeing from one's home country is a significant stress that could cause one to lose composure, but here, Mother is mentally unsteady because she is physically unsteady from the rocking of the boat.
  16. souvenir
    something of sentimental value
    I roll my fuzzy souvenir between my thumb and finger and can’t help but smile.
  17. translator
    someone who mediates between speakers of different languages
    We have landed on an island called Guam, which no one can pronounce except Brother Quang, who becomes translator for all.
  18. lure
    provoke someone to do something through persuasion
    The Disney cartoons lure out the girls, who always surround Brother Vu, begging him to break yet another piece of wood.
  19. appetite
    a feeling of craving something
    So many appetites wake up that Brother Vu just has time to cook rice and serve it with plain fish sauce.
  20. amethyst
    a transparent purple variety of quartz; used as a gemstone
    Mother wants to sell the amethyst ring Father brought back from America, where he trained in the navy before I was born.
  21. tangible
    perceptible by the senses especially the sense of touch
    What’s the point of new shirts and sandals if you lose the last tangible remnant of love?
    A remnant is usually "a piece of cloth left over after the rest has been used" but it can also be any tangible "small part remaining after the main part no longer exists." The phrase "tangible remnant" seems needlessly repetitive, but both words emphasize the importance of the ring that represents the intangible love of Father and Mother (which is even more intangible now because he's not with them).
  22. humid
    containing or characterized by a great deal of water vapor
    We are flown to another tent city in humid, hot Florida, where alligators are shown as entertainment.
  23. amend
    make revisions to
    Just like that Mother amends our faith, saying all beliefs are pretty much the same.
  24. stare
    look at with fixed eyes
    staring, blinking, wiping away tears, all without speaking English
  25. immediately
    without delay or hesitation; with no time intervening
    I love him immediately and imagine him to be good-hearted and loud and the owner of a horse.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.