Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas
Book review by Andrew Viñales
|Meeting Piri Thomas!|
I read Down these Mean Streets when I was in middle school. In fact, Piri Thomas was the first author I ever met in person. It was important for my mom to make sure I saw Afro-Latinx’s contribution to literature and culture, through Piri Thomas’ work I gained access to that world. Down These Mean Streets is about Harlem, poverty, prison and coming of age for a man who experienced systemic racism in complex forms. Thomas’ rhythmic voice masterfully retells parts of his life story in a way that doesn’t romanticize the drama, but makes it more palatable. I firmly believe that my academic, social, and political work has been shaped by Down these Mean Streets, with that I end my review in the Spirit of Thomas… Punto!
About Down These Mean Streets:
Thirty years ago Piri Thomas made literary history with this lacerating, lyrical memoir of his coming of age on the streets of Spanish Harlem. Here was the testament of a born outsider: a Puerto Rican in English-speaking America; a dark-skinned morenito in a family that refused to acknowledge its African blood. Here was an unsparing document of Thomas's plunge into the deadly consolations of drugs, street fighting, and armed robbery--a descent that ended when the twenty-two-year-old Piri was sent to prison for shooting a cop.
As he recounts the journey that took him from adolescence in El Barrio to a lock-up in Sing Sing to the freedom that comes of self-acceptance, faith, and inner confidence, Piri Thomas gives us a book that is as exultant as it is harrowing and whose every page bears the irrepressible rhythm of its author's voice. Thirty years after its first appearance, this classic of manhood, marginalization, survival, and transcendence is available in an anniversary edition with a new Introduction by the author.
Andrew is a proud Afro-Latinx born and raised in the Bronx. He found his love for reading at an early age. His interests in history, culture, literature and community is a driving force for him to pursue a Master’s degree in Oral History at Columbia University. When he’s not organizing, reading, writing short stories, or on Tumblr, you can find Andrew dancing!