"Inside Out and Back Again," Vocabulary from Part 4

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. consult
    get or ask advice from
    He consulted, left word, waited until it became obvious he would know nothing more.
  2. replace
    substitute a person or thing for
    Pem comes over on gift-exchange day with a doll to replace the mouse-bitten one I told her about.
  3. emotion
    any strong feeling
    My high emotions are squished beneath the embarrassment of not having a gift for her.
  4. monastery
    the residence of a religious community
    Brother Khoi asks what if Father escaped to Tibet after shaving his head and joining a monastery?
  5. blurt
    utter impulsively
    I can’t think of anything but can’t let my brothers best me, so I blurt out, What if Father is really gone?
  6. whim
    a sudden desire
    From the sad look on their faces I know despite their brave guesses they have begun to accept what I said on a whim.
    "Whim" also means "an odd or fanciful or capricious idea"--this definition could describe the nature of Ha's question, but the phrase "on a whim" connects to her desire to beat her brothers; that caused the blurting of the idea that Father might really be gone (which is not as whimsical as the guess that he had shaved his head and joined a Buddhist monastery).
  7. waver
    move in a rising and falling pattern
    Mother says nothing about Father but she chants every night, long chants where her voice wavers between hope and acceptance.
  8. supposed
    required or under orders
    First day back after Christmas break, I know I’m supposed to wear everything new.
    Here, the "d" at the end of the verb "suppose" turns it into an adjective, but it is an adjective that is always used in the phrase "supposed to." Often, this leads into a point that is the opposite of what the character is supposed to do or feel.
  9. beige
    of a light grayish-brown color
    It’s beige with blue flowers made from a fabric fuzzy and thick, perfect for this cold day.
  10. flannel
    a soft light woolen fabric; used for clothing
    Don't ya know flannel is for nightgowns and sheets?
  11. clench
    squeeze together tightly
    Mother runs in after work, hands clenched into white balls, words chopped into grunts, face of ash.
  12. propel
    cause to move forward with force
    We repeat so often we lose count, propelled by Mother’s wild eyes and pressed mouth, frightened of what her expression would be
  13. dusk
    the time of day immediately following sunset
    At dusk, the guards shoo us out.
  14. portrait
    any likeness of a person, in any medium
    The same, forever-young portrait of Father.
  15. pause
    cease an action temporarily
    She pauses, voice choked.
  16. ceremony
    a formal event performed on a special occasion
    I’m trying to tell MiSSSisss WaSShington about our ceremony for Father.
  17. article
    a determiner indicating the specificity of a noun phrase
    But it takes time to match every noun and verb, sort all the tenses, remember all the articles, set the tone for every s.
    In this example sentence, there is 1 article used three times; 6 different nouns; 5 different verbs. Can you spot and name them all?
  18. stubborn
    tenaciously unwilling to yield
    Being stubborn won’t make you fluent.
    The adjectives "stubborn" and "fluent" are used as opposites here. A Latin root makes the contrast more vivid: "fluere" means "to flow"--so the speech of a fluent person flows like water, while a stubborn person who is unwilling to yield is like a wall.
  19. announce
    make known
    Brother Khoi announces he will become a doctor of animals.
  20. expected
    considered likely or probable to happen or arrive
    As with every Tet we are expected to smile until it hurts all three first days of the year, wear all new clothes especially underneath, not sweep, not splash water, not talk back, not pout.
    Compare with "supposed" in this list. Similarly, the verb can be used by itself (example: Mother expected smiles from us), but the adjective is always used with "to" (example: We are expected to smile). The phrase "expected to" often leads into a point where the opposite happens or the character struggles with the expectations.
  21. hatch
    emerge from the eggs
    I pray for Father to find warmth in his new home, Mother to keep smiling more, Brother Quang to enjoy his studies, Vu Lee to drive me from and to school, Brother Khdi to hatch an American chick.
  22. inspire
    serve as the inciting cause of
    So many details in this story were inspired by my own memories.
  23. aspect
    a characteristic to be considered
    The emotional aspect is important because of something I noticed in my nieces and nephews.
  24. pivotal
    being of crucial importance
    I hope you enjoy reading about Ha as much as I have enjoyed remembering the pivotal year in my life.
    A pivot is an "axis consisting of a shaft supporting something that turns"--so this pivotal year is also the turning point of the author's life. Because the readers do not see the fictional Ha as an adult, the same point cannot be made about her (yet).
  25. implore
    call upon in supplication
    I also hope after you finish this book that you sit close to someone you love and implore that person to tell and tell and tell their story.

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