Bronx Masquerade -- Nikki Grimes
A few pages in, I realized that I'd already read this. But it's a good one, so I re-read it.
This passage will describe the book better than I can at this early (and sugar-deprived) hour:
The brotha's right. I look around this class and nobody I see fits into the box I used to put them in. Startin' with Mr. Ward. I figured him for a lightweight do-gooder who would last about five minutes in this neighborhood. But he stuck, and he got this poetry thing going. He even reads his own stuff sometimes. He's okay.
Devon's okay too. I don't know how bright the other jocks are, but there's nothing dumb about this brotha. Mr. Ward says you have to take people one at a time, check out what's in their head and heart before you judge.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before: In college, I was going through a bunch of college-aged-angst-crap and had a heart-to-heart with a professor. She said that sometimes she'd just look out at the classroom and wonder what was going on behind all of those faces. (I think that was one of the things that made her such a great professor, actually. She was big on empathy. Also big on Chaucer. It's a great combination. God, I loved that class. Anyway.)
That's what Bronx Masquerade is all about. A classroom of students dropping their daily masks through poetry. It's a good one.