Chapters 1–8

Like many Japanese-Americans, Hanako and her family are imprisoned in an American internment camp during World War II. After the war ends, they emigrate to Japan — but they struggle to make a home in a country that is unfamiliar to them.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. serene
    not agitated
    Mama used to be a calm person— serene, even.
  2. descent
    properties attributable to your ancestry
    Nikkei were people of Japanese descent, whether they were citizens of America, Japan, or any other country.
  3. grueling
    characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion
    Logging was one of the most deadly professions in America, Papa said. At Jerome it was grueling work with old equipment.
  4. reprimand
    censure severely or angrily
    But, still, he insisted Hanako and Akira call him “Mr.” She’d called him “Taylor” once, and Papa had reprimanded her for being rude.
  5. partition
    a vertical structure that divides or separates
    Nobody was shy, because in the camps there had been showers and latrines with no partitions between them. So none of them had had privacy for years.
  6. feral
    wild and menacing
    Besides getting stronger, Papa had changed in another way. He looked older now, and kind of feral. Before, he had always seemed civilized, even sophisticated.
  7. barbed
    having or covered with protective points, spines, or thorns
    You did not need a suit when you were surrounded by barbed wire.
  8. defiant
    boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
    He opened his eyes and squinted at her in that defiant way he did when he thought she might be mad at him but he had no idea why.
  9. entity
    that which is perceived to have its own distinct existence
    She didn’t even know these kids, but at the moment they were all one single entity.
  10. hysterical
    marked by excessive or uncontrollable emotion
    Then the boy who’d opened the door called out “Hakujin!” and slammed it shut, and they all ran away laughing hysterically.
  11. tentatively
    in a hesitant manner
    Hanako tentatively stood up and still felt fine.
  12. protrude
    extend out or project in space
    She’d hardly eaten. She held out her arms in front of her—the bones in her wrists protruded.
  13. disembark
    exit from a ship, vehicle, or aircraft
    Then suddenly came the announcement: “Japanese repatriates will begin disembarking beginning with R through V.”
  14. expatriate
    a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country
    Also, she knew, because her teacher had told her, that the proper word for her family was “ expatriate,” not “repatriate.” A “repatriate” was someone returning to his native country, while an “ expatriate” was someone withdrawing himself from his native country. Like her, many of the people on this ship had probably never been to Japan.
  15. repatriate
    a person who has returned to the country of origin
    Also, she knew, because her teacher had told her, that the proper word for her family was “expatriate,” not “ repatriate.” A “ repatriate” was someone returning to his native country, while an “expatriate” was someone withdrawing himself from his native country. Like her, many of the people on this ship had probably never been to Japan.
  16. barge
    a flatbottom boat for carrying heavy loads
    Most of the small children on the barge wore knit caps, probably made by their mothers.
  17. dismal
    causing dejection
    Truthfully, Japan looked a little dismal. The road was rocky, and the buildings were made of cracked wood. Everything looked like it was a hundred years old and hardly ever repaired.
  18. barrack
    a building or group of buildings to house military personnel
    They were let off at some barracks that Mama said had been a center for Japanese soldiers who were being shipped out during the war.
  19. fathom
    come to understand
    She could not fathom it: living here before going off to war.
  20. meringue
    sweet dessert or topping made of beaten egg whites and sugar
    The pies for the week were apple, lemon meringue, pear, pineapple, cherry, and egg custard—for Tuesdays through Sundays.
  21. blanch
    cook (vegetables) briefly
    When lunch ended, she would blanch whole almonds by boiling them just until their skins puffed up.
  22. lye
    a strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide
    She would save old grease and mix it with lye and water to make dishwashing soap.
  23. integrity
    moral soundness
    The ACLU was a bunch of lawyers who’d formed an organization to defend people’s civil rights and stand up for the Constitution. Supposedly, they had a lot of integrity.
  24. subside
    wear off or die down
    She felt that anger that made her face hot and made her squeeze her hands into fists. She had no future! All she had was her trust in her parents. Then her anger started to subside.
  25. frenzied
    affected with or marked by mania uncontrolled by reason
    “Hana! Aki! Stand back!” Mama shouted.
    Hanako was happy to do this, because the grownups were frenzied as they tore through the baggage.
  26. strew
    spread by scattering
    Hundreds of bags were strewn over the dirt ground!
  27. flimsy
    lacking solidity or strength
    There were solid black trunks and flimsy tan suitcases bound with thin rope and more laundry bags than she could count.
  28. charter
    engage for service under a term of contract
    Papa ran a hand through his hair and said, “We don’t have time. We’ve all chartered a train to Hiroshima.”
  29. resign
    accept as inevitable
    “Well...I hope someone finds it,” he said resignedly. “But it’s not ours anymore.”
  30. saunter
    walk leisurely and with no apparent aim
    It was hard not to stare at them, the way they sauntered, the way they acted like nothing had bothered them—ever—even though they’d just been locked up for years.
  31. makeshift
    done or made using whatever is available
    In the truck, on the way to the train station, she saw a few makeshift homes built out of what looked like scraps—even worse scraps than the barracks were made out of.
  32. lurch
    move haltingly and unsteadily
    The train lurched along. It was the noisiest train she had ever been on, and it shook like it was going over a track full of rocks.
  33. sheepish
    showing a sense of shame
    Hanako sat back and looked sheepishly out the window.
  34. solemnly
    in a serious and dignified manner
    His mouth dropped open as he took the katapan and bowed solemnly.
  35. compensation
    something given or received as payment or reparation
    As a result, workers went on strike. They demanded improved safety and working conditions and compensation for anyone injured on the job.
  36. mesmerize
    attract strongly, as if with a magnet
    The man leading the prayer had spoken more advanced Japanese than she could then understand. But the prayer was mesmerizing; she had felt sure nobody’s spirit could possibly be broken now.
  37. flunky
    an underling of unquestioning obedience
    In general, Papa said, the people running the camps were “low-level flunkies,” so everybody was curious about Mr. Myer.
  38. grievance
    a complaint about a wrong that causes resentment
    A negotiating committee met with him and Mr. Best to discuss camp grievances.
  39. contraband
    goods whose trade or possession is prohibited by law
    Once, the military invaded her barrack without knocking, shouting and demanding to know if they were hiding “ contraband.”
  40. stockade
    a penal camp where political prisoners are confined
    Papa and more than two hundred other men were imprisoned in the stockade, some for as long as nine months, without a hearing or trial.
Created on October 2, 2019 (updated October 7, 2019)

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