"Efrén Divided" by Ernesto Cisneros, Chapters 1–5

When his mother is deported, twelve-year-old Efrén must take on new responsibilities, including caring for his younger siblings.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–5, Chapters 6–11, Chapters 12–19

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definitions & notes only words
  1. stifle
    smother or suppress
    Efrén covered his mouth and stifled his laughter as a sleeping Max pulled away his leg.
  2. flaunt
    display proudly
    Some kids at school only saw this white kid who likes to dress flashy and flaunt his latest piece of jewelry.
  3. cowlick
    a tuft of hair in a different direction from the rest
    Being Soperwoman wasn’t just about checking teeth, flattening down cowlicks, and making sure Max wore only one pair of underwear at a time.
  4. at large
    having escaped, especially from confinement
    Home raids, car chases, and suspects at large were all as familiar as paletero trucks selling ice-cream bars outside of church.
  5. knead
    manually manipulate, for medicinal or relaxation purposes
    “Whatcha doing up there?” asked David, kneading the kittens’ backs.
  6. scoff
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    “Oh, I finally complained. Told her that I’m too old to be walked to school.”
    David scoffed. “Yeah, right. You probably begged her, huh?”
  7. inadvertently
    without knowledge or intention
    “Nah, I got this,” David said, his usual swag now replaced with an uncomfortable wobble from the wedgie he’d inadvertently given himself.
  8. obligated
    caused by law or conscience to follow a certain course
    She had this theory about how people only offer things because they feel obligated by the whole manners thing—kind of like when the family has company and Amá offers to feed them despite the fact that it would mean digging into the family’s weekly rations.
  9. ration
    a fixed portion that is allotted
    She had this theory about how people only offer things because they feel obligated by the whole manners thing—kind of like when the family has company and Amá offers to feed them despite the fact that it would mean digging into the family’s weekly rations.
  10. weathered
    worn by exposure to the elements
    Efrén unzipped his backpack and took out the books he’d tucked away at the bottom. He then slipped them into the weathered, empty Amazon box marked “return” seated outside the library door.
  11. jostle
    make one's way by pushing or shoving
    After that, Efrén and Abraham jostled for a better position to watch David showing off his skills on his new Nintendo Switch, which he’d gotten a month ago for his birthday.
  12. uncanny
    surpassing the ordinary or normal
    Even with the uneven letters slanting to one side, the caricature at the center showed an uncanny similarity to Jennifer Huerta.
  13. dumbstruck
    so surprised or shocked as to be unable to speak
    Efrén stood there, dumbstruck.
  14. caricature
    a representation of a person exaggerated for comic effect
    An impressive caricature of David, drawn on yellow poster paper, hung over the toilet.
  15. bylaw
    a rule adopted by an organization
    “I don’t know, dude. The bylaws say that messing with a person’s campaign poster could get us disqualified.”
  16. frantically
    in an uncontrolled manner
    David waved his arms frantically to get Efrén's attention.
  17. confined
    not free to move about
    Maybe she’d taken the Minions down to the school playground to get the wiggles out of their system. Especially Max. He didn’t do well in confined spaces.
  18. straggle
    go, come, or spread in a rambling or irregular way
    He looked up at the setting sun and then around at the last of the neighborhood kids straggling home.
  19. riffraff
    common or disreputable people
    Soon, the riffraff (or chusma, as Amá liked to call them) would begin trickling out, and it was best to try to avoid them.
  20. communal
    for or by a group rather than individuals
    Only he kept thinking about the neighborhood gossip he’d picked up from a few of Amá's comadres at the communal laundromat—stories about nearby factories getting raided and somebody—usually someone’s distant cousin—getting caught and deported.
  21. implore
    beg or request earnestly and urgently
    He imagined them blessing themselves, imploring la Virgen María and any of a long list of patron saints to pray for Amá's safe return.
  22. apparently
    seemingly; as far as one can tell
    The smell of smoke had apparently slowed her Tupperware sales.
  23. tousle
    disarrange or rumple; dishevel
    Apá approached Efrén, tousling his hair and pulling him into a tight hug.
  24. cue
    a stimulus that provides information about what to do
    Somehow, no matter the time, she’d always sense his presence and wrap her arms around him. And then on cue, she’d say a short prayer before running her fingers along his hair, piojito style.
  25. muster
    summon up, call forth, or bring together
    Efrén tried distracting his mind with positive thoughts, but all the positivity he could muster was the fact that he positively missed his mother.
  26. misshapen
    so badly formed or distorted as to be ugly
    A bit later, Efrén and Max and Mía stood along the kitchen table, forming the premade biscuit dough into misshapen animal figures.
  27. char
    burn slightly and superficially so as to affect color
    “Okay. Now stand back, you two. The oil is very, very hot. Last thing I want is Amá coming home to a pair of charred twins.”
  28. generic
    not protected by trademark
    A half hour later, Efrén found himself at the elementary school lunch tables, eating generic Cheerios with his brother and sister.
  29. annotate
    add explanatory notes to or supply with critical comments
    But how could he annotate an entire three-page article for Mr. Garrett with only fifteen minutes until the first bell?
  30. appeal
    be attractive to
    “Simple. I want to appeal to all my voters. Blue for boys? Pink for girls?”
  31. referral
    the act of sending or directing something to someone
    “Oh, and make sure you return the slip, or it’s an automatic referral to the office.”
  32. citation
    a short note recognizing a source of information
    For the rest of class, Efrén did his best to stay focused as Mr. Garrett droned on about the lack of proper citations in today’s media—well, as best as he could, with David slipping him little notes with campaign slogan ideas.
  33. beeline
    the most direct route
    He kept himself perfectly still, but his eyes followed as Apá made a beeline for the kitchen phone.
  34. quack
    an untrained person who pretends to be a physician
    Despite his burning temperature, Apá insisted doctors were all quacks and that all they ever do is suggest Tylenol, rest, and plenty of water.
  35. pneumonia
    respiratory disease characterized by lung inflammation
    As it turned out, the doctor found Apá had pneumonia, something Amá blamed on the long hours he spent working in the cold.
Created on July 10, 2020 (updated July 14, 2020)

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