Bronx Masquerade, and On the Horribleness of Some People

I'm rather ashamed that I hadn't read anything by Nikki Grimes until yesterday.  I've had Bronx Masquerade on my TBR for a bit, and since I was able to download the ebook for free through our library system, I figured, hey, why not.


WOW.

happy dog

This is spot-on.  I will happily hand this (read=I am going to rec this at any and every opportunity) to a reluctant reader, someone who wants a shorter book, or someone just looking for the un-Twilight.  Actually, I'd give this to anyone.  It's that good.

Realism and I, well, we've become friends over the past months.  What's so amazing about Bronx Masquerade is that it was written over 10 years ago, but it doesn't feel like it.  Grimes limits the narrative to emotions and actions.  While some of the characters name-drop Dr. Dre, that's still someone who's pretty relevant in the rap arena.  This story is a chameleon.  Because of the large cast of real, flawed, intense characters, a reader will find someone they can relate to.  (Yes, I know that technically it should be "to whom he/she can relate" but that sounds foofy).  Grimes is never preachy, and her poetry is fantastic.  Each poem uniquely suits the student delivering it at the poetry slam (Open Mike Friday in the book).

I believed that these kids existed, you know?  They weren't cariciatures.  The most hard-hitting for me was Lupe, who felt unloved.  To remedy this, she felt that the only way to discover unconditional love was to have a baby, and she envies a classmate who has a baby.  Grimes then immediately goes into the classmates story, and you see the reality of being a teen mother.  She loves her baby, but can't finish her schoolwork because of late-night fevers or fussing.

The students (and, by proxy, the reader, since we too are attending this Open Mike Friday with the rest of the kids cutting class to go) find that poetry is an ideal medium to express their true feelings.  They discover that their preconceived notions about each other are completely untrue, and even our jaded narrator, Tyrone, who generally has a cutting comment about something, begins to soften as the book closes.

This is a class act, 5 star book, no doubt.  I now have the urge to add all of Nikki Grimes' books to my library card--her latest effort for kids won a Coretta Scott King Honor for this year.  Yeah!  (Bronx Masquerade was a winner).

And now on to the social issue.  I went over to Goodreads to rate this book and scrolled through some of the reviews.  One that started out, "Racism" completely shocked and horrified me.  It was repulsive.  Somebody evidently thought that Grimes' message of accepting your skin color, accepting your identity, and being proud of who you are is "racist against white people."  Dark Helmet
A commenter then made a death threat against Ms. Grimes.  You better believe I flagged that.

Look, I'm not naive.  I know people are racist.  It sucks.  It rots.  It's so bloody horrible that I cannot even express how angry I am.  I'm repulsed that someone thought it was appropriate to write that in a public forum, and even more repulsed because I know that many, many people say these things out loud every day as a matter of course.  The next person who says we're living in a post-racist, colorblind society will be shown this person's horrible, vomit-inducing comment.

The hard part is that IT SHOULDN'T BE THAT WAY.  I'm a big stickler for DOING THINGS RIGHT.  This is not RIGHT.  I'm so upset that someone would denegrate such a fantastic book that I'm resorting to ALL CAPS and ... ellipses because I find it difficult to adequately express myself.

So I ask you to do two things.

1) Read Bronx Masquerade
2) The next time you hear someone say something even remotely racist, say something.  Tell them it's inappropriate or not cool or however you want to phrase it.  But tell them no.  Help to change the narrative.  Change our narrative.

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