"Americanized" by Sara Saedi, List 1

In this memoir, Sara Saedi describes her shocking discovery as a young teen that she was an undocumented immigrant and her journey to getting a green card.

This list covers Chapter 1—Frequently Asked Question #1.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: List 1, List 2, List 3, List 4, List 5
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. mundane
    found in the ordinary course of events
    What seemed like a mundane afternoon would go down in history as the day my world crumbled.
  2. angst
    an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety
    I don't think my sister derived any pleasure from blowing my carefully crafted reality to pieces, but maybe she couldn't handle being alone in her teen angst.
  3. deport
    expel from a country
    "You're not getting it," Samira continued. "The government doesn't know we exist. We could get deported at any time."
  4. objectively
    in a manner not influenced by emotion
    "Even Kia?" I asked. My brother was almost five years old then. He was objectively adorable.
  5. documented
    furnished with or supported by written information
    "We're illegal aliens."
    This was before " undocumented immigrant" became the more commonly used (and politically correct) term.
  6. revelation
    an enlightening or astonishing disclosure
    Suddenly hormonal acne...paled in comparison to the revelation that I was a criminal. And, apparently, an alien?
  7. accentuate
    stress or single out as important
    My Farsi was rusty at best. Being forced to wear a head scarf would only accentuate my bad skin.
  8. nationalize
    put under state control or ownership
    Yes, my sin—my greater sin...and even my greatest sin is that I nationalized Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire.
  9. exploitation
    the act of making use of and profiting from resources
    Yes, my sin—my greater sin...and even my greatest sin is that I nationalized Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire.
  10. espionage
    the systematic use of spies to obtain secrets
    With God’s blessing and the will of the people, I fought this savage and dreadful system of international espionage and colonialism.
  11. lucrative
    producing a sizeable profit
    Prior to Mossadegh, the country's most valuable resource was under British control. But why let the Brits instead of Iranians profit off of Iran's most lucrative industry?
  12. coup
    a sudden and decisive change of government by force
    So Eisenhower said, "We're in!" And that's when the CIA and Britain's Secret Intelligence Service decided to buddy up and formulate a secret coup to overthrow Mossadegh.
  13. detractor
    one who disparages or belittles the worth of something
    In fact, the CIA helped train the officers, which means they played a significant role in the torture and murder of thousands of shah detractors.
  14. burgeon
    grow and flourish
    Keep in mind that the Tehran of my parents' generation (during the shah's reign) was a burgeoning metropolis with European sensibilities.
  15. secular
    not concerned with or devoted to religion
    Of course, the new laws thrilled the country's religious citizens, but my mostly secular family wasn't having it.
  16. tumult
    violent agitation
    Despite the tumult of the times, I was a happy, chubby baby who slept through the night and was loved by an extended family full of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmas.
  17. upheaval
    a state of violent disturbance and disorder
    With the country in upheaval, waiting would have meant putting their children's lives at risk—a gamble they weren't willing to take.
  18. visa
    an endorsement that allows the bearer to enter a country
    In the back of their minds, I know they hoped the unrest in Iran would settle down, and we might be able to return to the country before our US visitor's visas expired.
  19. asylum
    a shelter from danger or hardship
    Once our visas expired, we applied for political asylum, but after two years without progress, we were told there was no record of our application.
  20. arduous
    characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion
    What followed was a series of messy, arduous, and complicated attempts at becoming US citizens.
  21. oppressive
    weighing heavily on the senses or spirit
    I also hated the fact that my parents permitted me to rollerblade only if I wore a helmet and kneepads. How was I supposed to look cute and athletic with such oppressive pieces of sporting equipment strapped to my body?
  22. affinity
    a natural attraction or feeling of kinship
    An affinity for street drugs was the only explanation for what were clearly the rantings of a strung-out lunatic.
  23. confounded
    perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements
    I was confounded by their relationships. At one point, we even lived next door to one of my aunts and down the street from another...by choice.
  24. alma mater
    a school you graduated from
    Plus, Lynbrook (the alma mater of seven of my cousins) was one of the best public schools in the now-famous Silicon Valley, and even though my family couldn't afford to live in the district, we weren't going to let our less desirable zip code keep us down.
  25. coveted
    greatly desired
    Since my dayee Mehrdad lived in the coveted and ritzy Saratoga neighborhood within Lynbrook's district, we used his address to finagle our way into the school.
  26. finagle
    achieve something by means of trickery or devious methods
    Since my dayee Mehrdad lived in the coveted and ritzy Saratoga neighborhood within Lynbrook's district, we used his address to finagle our way into the school.
  27. swanky
    impressively fashionable and elegant
    We weren't living in the country legally, and we weren't residents of the swanky Bay Area suburb our classmates lived in.
  28. clique
    an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose
    There was one Canadian member of my clique, who always blathered on and on about how her parents had taken the appropriate legal channels to move to the United States.
  29. throes
    violent pangs of suffering
    I didn't bother pointing out that Canada wasn't in the throes of a war or revolution.
  30. understatement
    something said in a restrained way for ironic contrast
    To simply say Samira was "cool" would be the understatement of the century.
  31. clandestine
    conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
    We lived in a two-story house, and my parents allowed us to take over the upstairs level. I realize now the proximity was just a clandestine plot to force us to like each other.
  32. boisterous
    noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline
    Even though I always got lost in the shuffle of tall, boisterous eighteen-year-olds, I loved moving through the quad with my sister.
  33. residency
    the act of dwelling in or occupying a place
    Since my dayee Mehrdad was an American citizen, he was able to sponsor our application for permanent residency.
  34. stipulate
    give a guarantee or promise of
    In the pre-hostage crisis days, you could easily walk into the Social Security office, wait in line, fill out a form, and get a fancy blue card. But now we had to at least prove that we had a right to work in the country, and that was exactly what the employment authorization card stipulated.
  35. unbeknownst
    occurring or existing without the knowledge of
    Unbeknownst to me, we were actually in a temporary "safe zone" from getting deported.
  36. worldly
    very sophisticated and experienced
    I finally felt like a grown-up. I was mature and worldly.
  37. illicit
    contrary to accepted morality or convention
    So my loyalties lay with my sister. I had to let her know that I could be trusted. I would do anything to demonstrate my allegiance. I kept every illicit activity to myself.
  38. abet
    assist or encourage, usually in some wrongdoing
    My parents would never have to know that I aided and abetted her bad behavior.
  39. berate
    censure severely or angrily
    I did not give in to my sudden urge to... berate him for lying to sweet Claudia with the perfect tan and ridiculously long legs.
  40. vernacular
    the everyday speech of the people
    But the country was also formally called Persia until the government changed the name to Iran in 1935. By 1959, scholars convinced the government that Persia and Iran should both be part of the vernacular.

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