A Place to Belong: Chapters 19–29

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.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–8, Chapters 9–18, Chapters 19–29, Chapters 30–41
35 words 15 learners

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Full list of words from this list:

  1. vexed
    troubled persistently especially with petty annoyances
    “It very hard to wake you up. I try many time. You worry old man; no good will come of it.” He seemed a little vexed at them for the first time since Hanako had met him.
  2. clarify
    make clear and comprehensible
    “They mean because they hungry,” Jiichan clarified.
  3. bustle
    move or cause to move energetically or busily
    Hanako spotted a bustling outside market, right next to a single broken concrete wall and a big pile of rubble.
  4. accost
    approach and speak to someone aggressively or insistently
    Three men suddenly accosted them, asking loudly all at once if they wanted to sell their rations for yen.
  5. yen
    the basic unit of money in Japan
    After they’d quickly walked a ways, Jiichan explained, “We don’t sell for yen. Yen is paper. You cannot eat paper.”
  6. awry
    away from the correct or expected course
    He was babbling, like he was trying to figure out what had gone awry.
  7. doggedly
    with obstinate determination
    And there was Akira, doggedly eating the rest of his tan, fake mochigashi. “I won’t waste it,” he said.
  8. torrential
    relating to or resulting from the action of a downpour
    But she was sure she understood now, watching the torrential rain that was barely visible in the darkness. Here, in the most unlikely place, in the pouring rain in the middle of the night, she understood her teacher.
  9. warp
    bend or twist out of shape
    Twenty-five years of working the fields as Baachan’s back warped and she grew old.
  10. weld
    join together by heating
    She hadn’t noticed before, but two of his fingers looked like they were sort of welded together.
  11. pall
    a sudden feeling of dread or gloominess
    There was a pall in the house because Akira had hardly moved all day, except to wobble his head and groan softly.
  12. impoverished
    poor enough to need help from others
    It made her feel like being here in this bombed-out, impoverished nation was the best experience she would ever have in her life and like her hungry stomach was just an adventure.
  13. weathered
    worn by exposure to the elements
    Baachan disappeared and reappeared with a weathered envelope.
  14. compulsory
    required by rule
    “This is where we are, and we just have to accept that. There is nothing for you to do all day, and anyway, Baachan says there is a rumor that the Americans will be insisting on compulsory school at least until after ninth grade.”
  15. renounce
    turn away from; give up
    I think your father felt that since we had nothing, and since Roosevelt took us prisoners of war, since our friends were beaten in camp, and other reasons, he wanted to renounce America when the government pressed him about it.
  16. tenant
    someone who pays rent to use property owned by someone else
    You know, it’s similar to the way it is in the United States for tenant farmers.The landowners make the money, the tenants struggle to feed their families.
  17. gnarled
    old and twisted and covered in lines
    “You feel my back.” Hanako wasn’t sure why Baachan wanted this, but she swept her palm up and down her grandmother’s curved back. Her spine felt like gnarled wood.
  18. socialist
    advocating the state ownership of industry
    And then when we come back to Japan, country have powerful people who want military state and powerful people who want socialist state.
  19. coup
    a sudden and decisive change of government by force
    Even though my country may have many hard time, these year with coup and assassinate is very unusually bad time for my country.
  20. aback
    by surprise
    “Oh! Hana-chan, you don’t mean what you ask!” Baachan looked quite taken aback.
  21. rucksack
    a bag carried by a strap on your back or shoulder
    He held up his rucksack triumphantly. “I’ve got some things!”
  22. threadbare
    thin and tattered with age
    But if you looked closely, you could see even the colorful clothes were old and threadbare.
  23. abacus
    a manual calculator with counters on rods or in grooves
    But when everybody took abacuses out of their desks, Hanako gaped. Abacuses? She had seen one once before but had no idea how they worked.
  24. feudal
    relating to a system where vassals are protected by lords
    The sensei talked about the samurai and the feudal period in Japan, but she didn’t use the word “samurai.” She used the word bushi, a word Hanako had never heard.
  25. samurai
    Japanese warrior who was a member of the feudal aristocracy
    So it took her ten minutes just to understand that the teacher was actually talking about samurai...or that maybe samurai were a type of bushi...or vice versa.
  26. venture
    put forward, of a guess, in spite of possible refutation
    Some wore plain boku zukin; others’ were quite colorful. There was a tall girl wearing a bright blue one with many white and yellow flowers.
    “Your boku zukin is pretty,” Hanako ventured in Japanese.
  27. haiku
    an epigrammatic Japanese verse form of three short lines
    The bell rang, and they all went in to write haiku—special poetry—and Hanako decided to write about eyes, because that just seemed like a good idea. It seemed original—everybody else was probably writing about nature, like most kids had done when they wrote haiku in the camp school.
  28. tragedy
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    “A tragedy is something really horribly awful.”
    Baachan nodded. “Yes, that exactly what I mean. If weed and insect win, would be tragedy. We would starve, so would others. So I must not take break. So deshō.”
  29. subdued
    quieted and brought under control
    Akira got slowly better, but he was never himself again. Truly never. He had become very subdued and fussy about how hungry he always was.
  30. reckoning
    problem solving that involves numbers or quantities
    The bottom beads, called the “earthly beads,” were worth one, and the top beads, called the “heavenly beads,” were worth five. The beam dividing them was called a “ reckoning bar,” and the only beads you counted were the beads touching the bar.
  31. complementary
    serving to fill out, enhance, or supply what is lacking
    Next on the soroban, she’d learned about the complementary numbers up to five: (3, 2) and (4,1). She’d gotten pretty fast at addition problems using the complementary numbers, but her fingers still didn’t fly like the fingers of the other kids.
  32. ward off
    repel or turn away
    She knew she was safe because pine trees were scattered here and there, and they warded off negative energy.
  33. meander
    move or cause to move in a winding or curving course
    Then one day, after meandering home from school, the house was completely empty—Mama and Akira weren’t there like they usually were.
  34. gird
    prepare oneself for action or a confrontation
    She girded herself and walked into the kitchen.
  35. flabbergasted
    as if struck dumb with astonishment and surprise
    She looked too flabbergasted that the rice was gone.
Created on October 2, 2019 (updated October 7, 2019)

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