Classroom Reading

Our Own Masquerade

Bronx Masquerade  is my secret April weapon; it has been since 2002. Since 2005, I have read this book aloud to three separate classes each April (National Poetry Month). That’s over 21 times reading the same novel aloud. It has not gotten old. I love this book. I would like to give Nikki Grimes a hug.

It’s the story of a high school English class, told by the students who are learning about poetry and The Harlem Renaissance. Each student takes a turn writing honestly about his or her life, and then writing a poem that is read to the class. By the end of the book the students view each other differently because they recognize the struggles each has to go through.

It’s a story of removing masks, revealing true identities, and embracing poetry/writing.

Slowly, slowly, the book takes us over, and we feel like our classroom too is going through the change. We are real with each other; we learn that there are some parts of each person’s story they had not dared to share before. Slowly, Slowly, the masks come off and we become inseparable.

Here’s a section of one of the poems from the book . . .

I woke up this morning

exhausted from hiding

the me of me

so I stand here confiding

there’s more to Devon

than jump shot and rim…

I dare you to peep

behind these eyes,

discover the poet

in tough-guy disguise….

don’t call me Jump Shot

my name is Surprise


If you are a teacher and thinking about using this book in your classroom, please be advised it does contain mature topics. I would use it for upper middle school or high school. If you are a parent, read it with your kid and talk to them.