Part III

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. speckle
    mark with small spots
    Maybe that's where there is money falling from the sky, diamonds speckling the sidewalks.
  2. dim
    lacking in light; not bright or harsh
    We did not stay because the dim bulb that hung from a chain swung back and forth when our upstairs neighbors walked across their floor, casting shadows that made my brother cry and suck hard on his middle fingers.
  3. gap
    an open or empty space in or between things
    My mother has a gap between her two front teeth. So does Daddy Gunnar. Each child in this family has the same space connecting us.
  4. cascade
    rush down in big quantities
    A small fountain sent water cascading over statues of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
  5. sculpture
    a three-dimensional work of plastic art
    This house is protected, my mother whispered to us. By the Saint of Ugly Sculpture.
  6. composition
    the act of creating written works
    I don't know how my first composition notebook ended up in my hands, long before I could really write someone must have known that this was all I needed.
  7. edible
    suitable for use as food
    Some days in this new place
    there is only a box of pancake mix
    an egg, and faucet water, the hiss
    of those together
    against a black cast-iron pan,
    the pancakes sticking to it
    syrupless but edible and us
    complaining about it wishing like anything
    we were back in Greenville,
    where there was always something good
    to eat.
  8. jut
    extend out or project in space
    I am in love with everything around me,
    the dotted white lines moving
    across my teacher's blackboard, the smell of chalk,
    the flag jutting out from the wall and slowly swaying
    above me.
  9. witness
    testimony by word or deed to your religious faith
    Because my grandmother calls and asks
    if we're spreading Jehovah's word,
    because my mother promises my grandmother
    she'll raise us right in the eyes of God,
    she finds a Kingdom Hall on Bushwick Avenue
    so we can keep our Jehovah's Witness ways.
  10. struggle
    make a strenuous or labored effort
    This is what reminds us of Greenville, the Saturday-night pressing of satin ribbons, Hope struggling with the knot in his tie, our hair oiled and pulled back into braids, our mother's hands less sure
    than our grandmother's, the parts crooked, the braids coming undone.
  11. idol
    a material effigy that is worshipped
    Sometimes, Gina says, Maybe we should pray for the kids inside who don't know that God said "No other idols before me."
  12. jealous
    suspicious or fearful of being displaced by a rival
    Say, “I pledge allegiance ..." loud without our jealous God looking down on us.
  13. immature
    in an early period of life or development or growth
    But Hope and Dell tell us that we're too immature to even begin to understand
  14. reveal
    make visible
    Robert opens his hand to reveal a pair of silver earrings, says to my sister, This is a gift for how smart you are.
  15. betray
    disappoint, abandon, or prove undependable to
    His feet are magic and we all try to slide across the floor like he does, our own feet, again and again, betraying us.
  16. universe
    everything that exists anywhere
    If you catch a dandelion puff, you can make a wish.
    Anything you want will come true, he says as
    we chase the feathery wishes around swings,
    beneath sliding boards,
    until we can hold them in our hands,
    close our eyes tight, whisper our dream
    then set it floating out into the universe hoping
    our uncle is telling the truth,
    hoping each thing we wish for
    will one day come true.
  17. preach
    deliver a sermon
    Go preach from door to door!
  18. proclaim
    praise, glorify, or honor
    The good news of Jehovah's kingdom— Proclaim from shore to shore!
  19. drawl
    a slow speech pattern with prolonged vowels
    In all our moving, we've forgotten our family in Ohio, forgotten our father's voice, the slow drawl of his words, the way he and his brother David made jokes that weren't funny and laughed as though they were.
  20. linger
    remain present although waning or gradually dying
    Was he a hugger like Grandma Georgiana holding us
    like she never planned to let go or
    did he hug hard and fast like Mama,
    planting her warm lips to our foreheads where
    the kiss lingered
  21. potion
    a medicinal or magical or poisonous beverage
    And then for hours after school each day he makes potions, mixing chemicals that stink up the house, causing sparks to fly from shaved bits of iron, puffs of smoke to pop from strange-colored liquids.
  22. protrude
    extend out or project in space
    We are fascinated by him, goggled and bent over the stove
    a clamped test tube protruding from his gloved hand.
  23. convert
    change religious beliefs, or adopt a religious belief
    For three hours we move through
    the streets of Nicholtown,
    knocking on strangers' doors, hoping to convert
    them into Sisters and Brothers and children of God.
  24. massage
    knead and rub parts of the body
    Soon, it'll be near evening and Daddy and I will walk slow
    back into the house where I'll pull the Epsom salt from the shelf
    fill the dishpan with warm water, massage his swelling hands.
  25. fascinated
    having your attention fixated as though by a spell
    We drag our feet below our swings,
    our arms wrapped lazily around the metal links
    no longer fascinated by the newness
    of the set, the way we climbed all over the slide,
    pumped our legs hard—toward heaven until
    the swing set shook with the weight of us lifting it
    from the ground.
Created on December 2, 2015 (updated September 28, 2018)

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