Part II

In a series of autobiographical poems, Jacqueline Woodson vividly brings her childhood and adolescence to life. This memoir in verse won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Newbery Honor Award.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. generation
    the normal time between successive groups of contemporaries
    My southern grandfather missed slavery by one generation.
  2. dusk
    the time of day immediately following sunset
    His father worked the land from dawn till dusk for the promise of cotton and a little pay.
  3. topaz
    a mineral in crystals of various colors used as a gemstone
    Our grandmother tells us this
    as she sets a small hat with a topaz pin on her head,
    pulls white gloves
    over her soft brown hands.
  4. intrigue
    cause to be interested or curious
    Even Salome intrigues us, her wish for a man's head
    on a platter—who could want this and live
    to tell the story of that wanting?
  5. infinity
    time without end
    Will the words end, I ask whenever I remember to.
    Nope, my sister says, all of five years old now, and promising me
  6. mortal
    unrelenting and deadly
    The South his mortal enemy. The South, his Kryptonite.
  7. switch
    a flexible implement used as an instrument of punishment
    As she slips her closed hand over it, removing the leaves, my brother begins to cry because the branch is a switch now no longer beautifully weeping at the bottom of the hill.
  8. crisp
    (of something seen or heard) clearly defined
    Each switching is a warning to us our words are to remain crisp and clear.
  9. respect
    a courteous expression of esteem or regard
    We are never to say huh? ain't or y'all git or gonna.
    Never ma'am—just yes, with eyes meeting eyes enough to show respect.
  10. subservient
    compliant and obedient to authority
    Don't ever ma'am anyone!
    The word too painful a memory for my mother of not-so-long-ago southern subservient days...
  11. inherit
    receive by genetic transmission
    But my grandfather just laughs,
    makes us open our mouths
    to show the strong Irby teeth we've inherited
    from his side of the family.
  12. limp
    lacking in strength, firmness, or resilience
    We can't go to downtown Greenville without seeing the teenagers walking into stores, sitting where brown people still aren't allowed to sit and getting carried out, their bodies limp, their faces calm.
  13. insist
    be emphatic or resolute and refuse to budge
    You can't just put your fist up. You have to insist on something
  14. deliberate
    unhurried and with care and dignity
    They learn how to change the South without violence, how to not be moved by the evil actions of others, how to walk slowly but with deliberate steps.
  15. generous
    more than adequate
    So she keeps the marchers' glasses filled, adds more corn bread
    and potato salad to their plates, stands in the kitchen ready to slice lemon pound cake into generous pieces.
  16. transform
    change or alter in appearance or nature
    Supper done and my grandmother has transformed the kitchen into a beauty shop.
  17. waft
    be driven or carried along, as by the air
    And while my grandmother sets the hot comb on the flame, heats it just enough to pull my tight curls straighter, my sister's voice wafts over the kitchen, past the smell of hair and oil and flame, settles like a hand on my shoulder and holds me there.
  18. segregated
    separated or isolated from others or a main group
    Even the five-and-dime, which isn't segregated now but where a woman is paid, my grandmother says, to follow colored people around in case they try to steal something.
  19. bittersweet
    having a taste that is a mixture of bitterness and sweetness
    If I ask, she will hold it to my lips,
    let me taste the bittersweet of it.
  20. usher
    take someone to their seats, as in theaters or auditoriums
    We know one word from us will bring a hush upon the women, my grandmother's finger suddenly pointing toward the house, her soft-spoken I think it's time for you kids to go to bed now ushering us into our room.
  21. fallow
    left unplowed and unseeded during a growing season
    Tobacco fields
    lay fallow, crops picked clean.
  22. faith
    a strong belief in a divine power or powers
    Have faith, my grandmother says pulling us to her in the darkness.
    Let the Bible, my grandmother says, become your sword and your shield.
  23. earnest
    devout or heartfelt
    my face clean and shining with oil, my words earnest as anything:
    Good morning, I'm Sister Jacqueline and I'm here to bring you some good news today.
  24. spare
    save or relieve from an experience or action
    We pray for my grandfather
    ask God to spare him even though
    he's a nonbeliever.
  25. eternity
    a state of perpetual existence
    What is promised to us in return is eternity.
Created on December 2, 2015 (updated September 28, 2018)

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