Chapters 5–7

This semi-autobiographical novel recounts the story of a Japanese family attempting to flee Korea and return home at the end of World War II.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. spunky
    showing courage
    If Father were here, Ko would still be spunky but a tender sister.
  2. dumbfounded
    as if rendered speechless with astonishment and surprise
    I stopped walking and stared at her, dumbfounded.
  3. sulk
    be in a huff and display one's displeasure
    I knew she wanted to make up for what she had said, but I sulked.
  4. asylum
    a shelter from danger or hardship
    They questioned us. We were wearing Korean Communist Army uniforms—were we seeking political asylum?
  5. interrogation
    formal systematic questioning
    The interrogation went on. Did we carry a large amount of money?
  6. stupefied
    as if struck dumb with astonishment and surprise
    "The war is over," he said.
    We were stupefied. "When?" Ko asked.
  7. peril
    a state of danger involving risk
    "Yesterday. You cannot go back. That is why there are so many escapees from the north. The Japanese are in peril in Korea now."
  8. antiseptic
    thoroughly clean and free of disease-causing organisms
    He sterilized the place beneath my right breast that was burned and infected, applied medicine, and the medic put on antiseptic gauze and wrapped my chest.
  9. agonize
    suffer anguish
    He pulled my earlobe down and inserted a long thin wire. Tears streaming, I gritted my teeth and saw Mother's agonized face.
  10. alumnus
    a person who has received a degree from a school
    "My father and your husband were classmates at the University. My father is Kazuzo Takeda—he's a member of the House of Peers. They get together at our house every year after their alumni association meeting."
  11. altercation
    a noisy quarrel
    She took me on her lap and wrapped us both in her blanket. Secure in her arms, I went to sleep. But some time later there was a violent altercation with the man next to Mother, who complained that I had kicked him.
  12. cunning
    crafty artfulness, especially in deception
    Mother was almost speechless at the cunning Ko had developed and her technique of swimming through danger.
  13. sodden
    wet through and through; thoroughly wet
    Rain came. We covered ourselves with our blankets but soon we were soaked. It rained for three days and we sat on the ground, in line, day and night. Our belongings were sodden.
  14. grimace
    contort the face to indicate a certain mental state
    "My leg is wounded. Don't press hard, you are hurting me." Ko grimaced as if in pain.
  15. plunder
    goods or money obtained illegally
    Yes, they were Korean Communist soldiers, four of them, and they had climbed the cliff with bags full of plunder.
  16. sympathetic
    expressing compassion or friendly fellow feelings
    He was terribly cold. The moon shone over the entire earth to give light, but why did it not give heat to warm him? He thought the beautiful moon was most unsympathetic. He found a spot and went to sleep.
  17. strait
    a narrow channel joining two larger bodies of water
    We had been three days crossing the rough Korean Strait, and at last we were entering the Japanese zone of Tsushima Strait.
  18. refugee
    an exile who flees for safety
    Using a megaphone, he was saying something over and over, but I could not understand his southern accent. Mother said he was telling the refugees to find their places.
  19. aback
    by surprise
    All these years I had dreamed of my beautiful homeland and its cheerful people, and now I was completely taken aback by demolished Fukuoka.
  20. memento
    a reminder of past events
    Mother held the bowl and gazed at it for a long time. The apple water steamed. She shook her head gently and shock was in her voice. "These bowls and the few belongings we have here are the only mementos from our beloved home."
  21. discharge
    release from military service
    We were able to get into third class, but it was packed with refugees and discharged soldiers.
  22. brisk
    quick and energetic
    The people who had got off were walking briskly into the station.
  23. yen
    the basic unit of money in Japan
    She took the small pouch from her chemise pocket and gave Ko ten yen (about three cents).
  24. humble
    low or inferior in station or quality
    Mother did a strange thing. She emptied her big wrapping cloth and took the cloth with her to the toilet. Then she came back and told Ko to put back all the humble items.
  25. shabby
    showing signs of wear and tear
    Through a glass door I could see well-dressed girls with bright bags, and then I looked down at my shabby trousers and shoes, the left one tied with a piece of the same rope Mother had used, so long ago, to tie my wrist.
  26. contagion
    any disease easily transmitted by contact
    As I swept and came near the girls who were dusting, they scattered, as if I were carrying contagion.
  27. compassionate
    showing or having sympathy for another's suffering
    If they had gone through what we had experienced, I thought, they would be compassionate.
  28. snobbish
    characteristic of those who incline to social exclusiveness
    "The girls were very snobbish, but I liked the lessons."
  29. scorn
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    I asked how her day had gone, thinking bitterly of the laughter and scorn I had experienced.
  30. vacancy
    an empty area or space
    Mother watched the benches and seized a vacancy when she saw one, calling us to come.
Created on March 9, 2021 (updated March 15, 2021)

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