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Down These Mean Streets Paperback – November 25, 1997
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The 30th anniversary edition of this classic memoir about growing up in Spanish Harlem includes an afterword reminding us that its streets are even meaner now, thanks to crack cocaine and the dismantling of government poverty programs. As a dark-skinned Puerto Rican, born in 1928, Piri Thomas faced with painful immediacy the absurd contradictions of America's racial attitudes (among people of all colors) in a time of wrenching social change. Three decades have not dimmed the luster of his jazzy prose, rich in Hispanic rhythms and beat-generation slang.
"Piri Thomas describes the passionate, painful search to validate his manhood...He has done it all in Harlem's mean streets and gone on from machismo to manhood, acquiring during the journey an understanding of man."--The Nation
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Piri Thomas creates the perfect picture of this kind of society for readers through this book. He tries to teach people about the Harlem community using his life alone to prove that no race was better than the rest. Although this book should not be recommended for people of all ages, it teaches its readers well-known morals in a different way. It opens people's minds to show them that the concept of being prejudice is shown in all races. Piri Thomas shows his view of the world by telling readers his life story, including everything from drug addictions to living on the mean streets of Harlem. Down These Mean Streets can be life-changing if it is appreciated in the right way.
Even though the language Piri Thomas uses throughout most of this book is dated, it doesn't matter. We know we're reading about a young gangster who grew up in Spanish Harlem in the 40's and 50's. He also grew up as a Morenito, a black Puero Rican. He got his racial identity from his father, a Moreno, although all of his other siblings resembled their mother who was clearly a white Puerto Rican. Thus, the book tells a lot about racial prejudice, a young man whose parents seemed to have almost no control over him and who is looking for where he belongs in this country of his. The book is so powerful and it deals not only with the issues of race, but also drug addiction, infidelity, death, prison, and the gangster life. It also deals with redemption, great loss, and learning the hard way, but still learning. I wanted to write to Piri Thomas to let him know that I loved his book so much, but I was reading about him on Amazon and found out that he had passed away only a month before I finished his book. I cried throughout the book, but I also cried when I read that he had passed away after what was a very hard life. I ended up giving this book to one of my students who had fought with an alcohol addiction and a hard life for many years and is black and a recovering alcoholic now. I hope he gets something out of it. This book could easily be made into a movie and I think it should be and now is the time if ever.
I will buy form this vendor again.