Melissa's Reviews > Bronx Masquerade

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
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Apr 02, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: annotated-bibliography, young-adult
Read in March, 2010

Snapshot:
Kids in a Bronx high school who used to judge each other in all sorts of ways find themselves and come together through weekly poetry readings in their English class, a practice started after one student wanted to respond to studying the Harlem Renaissance in poetry rather than in an essay. Each chapter changes voice, with a few characters repeating a number of times, giving the book an updated, American, and decidedly young but still _Vanity Fair_ effect. Identity that defy stereotypes is the key theme. It's a lively read, and the premise is right up my alley, and I loved the white kids wanting to be black, and the black kids accepting a white kid as a good free-style rapper, but the characters were not always convincing. It's sort of a cross between _Seedfolks_ and _Locomotion_, to relate it to other books on my list, although with a bigger dose of sorrow (death of parents, violence against women, etc.).

Hook:
Free-style rapping, high school cattiness, kids of every hue -- it's all here! Colloquial language, mostly.

Challenges:
The shifting voices, although I think that pre-alerting a student that this is the structure of the book would help. References to Harlem Renaissance figures, making it a great book to suggest for independent reading to a student who has shown interest in Langston Hughes or others.

Student(s) in mind:
Shaina, because she's creatively inclined. Maybe Stephane, too, since he is interested in poetry and rap, and I think he would enjoy the different voices, and it would get him thinking about contemporary American society.

Conference notes:
I'd want to focus my questions in a couple areas. First, around comprehension of poetry and reading strategies... For example: Did you stop and re-read the poems? Which ones did you like best and why? Could you write one in response to it? Next, identity: which character do you think is struggling with his or her identity the most? What different kinds of identity struggles are the different students having? What role does poetry play in helping them figure out and express who they are?

Level: High school or advanced middle school because of the subject matter and the density of some of the poetry.
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