"Our America," Vocabulary from Part I

As 13-year-olds, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman were interviewed by National Public Radio. Learn this list to better understand their award-winning and heartbreaking stories about "Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago."

Here are links to our lists for the nonfiction text: Part I, Part II, Part III
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. ghetto
    a poor densely populated city district
    Don't look at ghetto kids as different.
  2. abandoned
    forsaken by owner or inhabitants
    Walking down the streets. See an abandoned building, graffiti on the wall.
  3. rowdy
    disturbing the public peace; loud and rough
    There are twenty-eight kids in our homeroom class, and it’s pretty rowdy most of the time.
  4. assassinate
    murder; especially of socially prominent persons
    We talk about the President, what Bush is doing when the cameras aren’t around, how JFK got assassinated, what they did to Mike Tyson, and how William Kennedy Smith got off.
  5. publicity
    a message issued in behalf of some product or cause or idea
    It’s difficult because of the publicity that surrounds our housing development and community. People set their minds, before they come here, to expect problems, and generally you get what you expect.
  6. rambunctious
    noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline
    Now, are my eighth graders my most rambunctious group? Yes. You all keep me challenged every day, to say the least.
  7. frustrated
    disappointingly unsuccessful
    The ghetto kid’s going to be hostile and gangster-like. He’ll be more angry. He’ll get more frustrated.
  8. racist
    discriminatory on the basis of skin color
    I’d like to see if they have enough heart to come in the projects . . . And if somebody did come in the projects, I’m not racist or anything, but if he’s white I don’t got to touch you.
  9. reminisce
    recall the past
    It’s a good day today. Good time to reminisce.
  10. custody
    guardianship over
    My grandmother has custody of me and my sisters because my mother has a mental illness.
  11. sentimental
    marked by tender, romantic, or nostalgic emotion
    My name is sentimental. I hold that dear to my name.
  12. artery
    a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body
    Baby Lee and his friend got in a argument, and his friend took the broken neck off of a beer bottle, and stabbed him in his leg. It hit the femoral artery and he bled to death.
  13. peer
    a person who is of equal standing with another in a group
    And then peer pressure has a lot to do with what people do—their friends was doing it, so they felt that they would try it out too.
  14. bipolar
    of or relating to manic depressive illness
    Well, when it first started they said she was a manic-depressive. Now they’ve changed it to bipolar.
  15. recuperate
    get over an illness or shock
    I’m more or less recuperating from an illness. It’s a slow recuperation, but when I feel better the doctor says that I can look for a position back with the government.
  16. outspoken
    given to expressing yourself freely or insistently
    Then if you live long enough you might make it to the Senate. You’re outspoken. You like to talk.
  17. stereotype
    treat or classify according to a conventional conception
    But I’m not gonna stereotype the whole white race just for a few bigots. I know all white people can’t be bad, ’cause God made us equal. We all of us human.
  18. salutatorian
    a graduating student with the second highest academic rank
    My sister is just like those “good” kids. She was in the spelling bee, she was in the Academic Olympics, she was the salutatorian of her class.
  19. filthy
    disgustingly dirty
    Then she started hanging with these girls—their house was filthy, they were filthy—and they just kept dragging her down and down and down.
  20. regret
    feel sorry for; be contrite about
    How would your life be if your son wasn’t here?
    I probably would still be going to school. But I’m not saying that I regret having him, because I’d do it all over again. He’s the most precious thing in my life.
  21. squadron
    a cavalry unit consisting of two or more troops
    My mother had lots of army men over there for me, and I would just sit playing all day. I had a setup: five squadrons, five men in front, five men in back, five men walking on the sides.
  22. autopsy
    an examination and dissection of a dead body
    They did the autopsy and they said cirrhosis of the liver. My mother was only thirty-five.
  23. coma
    a state of deep and often prolonged unconsciousness
    He was in the hospital for some months after she passed, going in and out of comas, and they didn’t know if he was going to make it or not.
  24. sober
    not affected by a chemical substance, especially alcohol
    She’s the most beautiful woman I ever met. We were sober then. But once we started getting high, that memory is gone.
  25. hustle
    sell something to by energetic and underhanded activity
    I showed you when you were a little small guy how to hustle on the street with me.
  26. pitiful
    bad or unfortunate
    We are destroying ourselves. ’Cause it’s bad on these streets. It’s pitiful out here.
  27. repel
    force or drive back
    Lloyd: Would rather have a rubber nose or a plastic nose? I ain’t talking about the kind like Michael Jackson.. . .
    LeAlan: A rubber nose. ’Cause if I have a fight and they hit me it’d just bounce right off and repel back at them and hit them in the
    face.
  28. breed
    a special variety of domesticated animals within a species
    Don’t look at us like we’re an alien or an android or an animal or something. We have a hard life, but we’re sensitive. Ghetto kids are not a different breed—we’re human.
  29. activist
    a militant reformer
    These are my final words, but you’ll be hearing from me again, ’cause I’m an up-and-rising activist.
  30. concrete
    capable of being perceived by the senses
    We must come together—no matter what you believe in, no matter how you look—and find some concrete solutions to the problems of the ghetto.

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