Down These Mean Streets

( 50 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

A new edition of the unforgettable autobiography of an American of Puerto Rican dissent who overcame intense discrimination and social pressure in Harlem's mean streets.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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
Daniel Stern
This is the autobiography of Piri Thomas, son of a light-skinned Puerto Rican mother and a dark-skinned Puerto Rican father. The book's literary qualities are primitive. Yet it has an undeniable power that I think comes from the fact that it is a report from the guts and heart of a submerged population group, itself submerged in the hearts and guts of our cities.-- Books of the Century, The New York Times review May, 1967
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679781424
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: 30th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 93,229
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Table of Contents

Harlem
1 Cutting Out 3
2 Puerto Rican Paradise 8
3 Playing It Smooth 14
4 Alien Turf 24
5 Home Relief 39
6 If You Ain't Got Heart, You Ain't Got Nada 47
7 Little Red Schoolhouse 64
8 In Business 70
Suburbia
9 Babylon for the Babylonians 81
10 But Not for Me 88
Harlem
11 How to Be a Negro Without Really Trying 95
12 My Marine Tiger 105
13 Hung Up Between Two Sticks 119
Suburbia
14 Learning Some New ABC's 131
15 Brothers Under the Skin 142
16 Funeral for a Prodigal Son 149
Down South
17 Gonna Find Out What's Shakin' 157
18 Barroom Sociology 169
19 Las Aguas del Sur 179
Harlem
20 Home, Sweet Harlem 195
21 Hung Down 200
22 Real Jesse Jameses 211
23 Wish It Were You, Trina 223
24 If You're Gonna Pray - Then Pray Big 228
Prison
25 The House of "Do-Right" 241
26 Breaking In 248
27 Mucho Days and Nights in Gray 255
28 Sex in the Can 262
29 No More Mananas for Us, Trina 269
30 Sweatin', Man, Sweatin' 275
31 God, Ain't You for Everybody? 288
32 Great, Man, Great; I'm Thinking Like a Stone Philosopher 298
New York Town
33 Free Side Is the Best Side 309
34 Hey, Barrio - I'm Home 318
35 I Swears to God and the Virgin 327
Afterword to the Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition 333
Glossary 339
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 50 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(38)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2008

    Score one for Stereotypes

    I could not stomach this book for more than three chapters. There is no writing style just a bad combination of English and Spanish words that have nothing to offer. I am embarrassed to be Puerto Rican when this is the only way that we are portrayed. I know that for some people this is reality, but not every Puerto Rican has been to jail or done drugs. Some Puerto Ricans have fathers who worked hard so that they would not have to live in bad areas where it was easy to do bad things. Some went to college, got good jobs, and had families who also did not commit crimes or do drugs. I would send this book to anyone who would like an opportunity to disagree, but it is not worth the postage. I have always had a rule about books that I have read and it is simple never throw a book away. This time, I have no choice but to break my own rule.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2006

    Such An interesting book, and i hated reading.

    This book was great, it was interesting, i didnt want to put it down, and im not the kind of person that likes to read, i think piri, he had a great time writing this book, remembering his childhood.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2002

    The truth Hurts

    I found this book to be very interesting. I feel that not only young men of all nationalities should read this but women as well. I could not put it down. It made me laugh, cry and take a good look in the mirror!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    IS THIS BOOK FOR A 14 YEAR OLD TO READ???

    IS THIS BOOK FOR A 14 YEAR OLD TO READ???

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    So I read this for English Class....

    And halfway pass the beginning, I wondered "Just what the hell is this school trying to make me read?!"

    This books stresses Piri being a dark skinned puerto rican and how he gets confused for being black and his issue with that. How being compare to being black is like the worse thing possible. And being a dark skinned hispanic (domincan) myself, the whole time I was reading this I just thought, "Suck it up man. Who cares what they think?"
    At the being one might think, that this book is such a stereotype and stating that we are all the same facing these problems daily and that we trough in random Spanish words in the middle of our sentence. "You got no Corazon." kind of thing.
    But then I thought, this was during the 30's, the great depression, world war 2. That was when I realized, this is amazing! For us now, it's usual to see things like this, but during the 50's? I don't think so. So you have to keep that in mind. It's not the same how it is now so all in all, it's a very educated book and made me glad how my parents raised me. As I read it, my proud attitude of my heritage and skin color never wavered.

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  • Posted November 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    an amazing book

    I read this book in 1994 and shared it with my son in 2008. He shared it with his cousins and the book has not been back on the shelf since. it is a great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2008

    A Realli Gud Book

    This book was really good from beginning to end. His style coulndt have been any better, its a book talking about his life, not something he pulled out the figment of his imagination and he could have wrote that anyway he wanted to hbecause it is his life. This book kept me on my toes and i never wanted to put it down and he stayed very true to who he is and used Spanish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2006

    here we go again

    this book was a decent book it tells you how most minority's life was back in 1941. piri seemed like the normal puerto rican kid except his mom was light his dad was dark and he had to go through the white puerto rican and black puerto rican disagreement. poor piri just could not get his self together from trying to steal from homosexuals, to fighting to gain friends and respect, to getting in trouble all the the time to killing a cop going to prision for seven years i think he learned his lesson. he also fell in love with trina i think that was her name

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2006

    O.K. Book

    This book was a hard book for me to interested in but about half way through the book it got better and better as I read. If you think that you have a hard life read this book Piri Thomas had a mixture of emotions and events that changed his life for the better. This book could be hulpful to someone who might be going the same thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2005

    This is definitivly a interesting book

    This book is about Piri Thomas growing up in Spanish Harlem. He had to grow up in a rough neighborhood,which cause him to make some bad decision. I know a lot of people that had to grow up in similar situations that made them make some of the wrong choices in life that they regret. Piri found hisself being hated by different types of races. Being hated by people caused him to be filled with haterd, which would make anybody mad. Piri had to fight to gain respect. Piri got involved in drugs and robberies. Started hanging around some of the wrong people. In one the robberies Piri ended up shooting a cop. What landed him in jail for some years. After doing jail time Piri changed his ways. I would recommend all teenagers to read this book because some times they go through some of the same situations. This book would help a person think twice before doing something wrong.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2005

    MY ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOK!

    I read this book 30 years ago when I was 16 years old and growing up on NY's lower east side. The drugs, the fight to survive the streets and the hope of coming away a better person are all things that were a major part of NYC life back in the 70's. I remembering reading this book in one day, not wanting to put it down for a minute. When my own son was 16 I gave him a copy of the book. He's read it 3 or more times since and we both claim it as our all time favorite book! This is a book that will take you into the dark city streets and make you feel like you're a part of the story. The writting is awesome and the characters come to life. A MUST READ

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2005

    Pretty Darn Good Book

    This book is about a boy who grows up in the streets of Harlen, New York. He goes through lots of life changing experiences that change the way his life will go. One of the main events would be when he begins to sell drugs. That isn't the only thing. Many things come around make him have to choose to go the good or the bad way. This is a good book for people who have grown up in the same evironment as he did. I would recomend this book to anybody who has had it hard when they grew up. I could have somewhat relate to him but not completely. I figure this book is good for teenage boys and maybe some adults. It all depends on your choice of book. If you are looking for a book to sit and read on your spare time, this is a good one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2004

    A MUST READ CLASSIC

    A great teacher that I had in High school gave me this book to read. I loved it, and I loved her for introducing me to the book. I couldn't put it down. Piri takes you back to his time to his world and makes you say wow...This man is deep, a great writer, so truthful with his words. This is a classic, I recomend it to any one. It's a must read...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    Definitely a book you read over and over

    I have read many books but none like 'Down these mean streets'. In this book Piri takes you to his place in time. It's real that you can actually place yourself there and then. Lets not over look the fact that the times havent changed too much.. I felt Piri Thomas all the waaaaaaaay!!! I actually lived on that little Italian block on 114th Street that he spoke of where he got smashed in the face with Carne molida (Ground Beef)so he kinda took me back home with this one. 'Down these Mean Streets' is a definite classic!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    from the old school

    I remember growing up around 112th street and Park Ave,and grew up as a young black man in Spanish Harlem. I had to deal with the same as Piri had to and the cycle continues. A definite must read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2004

    Great

    I loved this book before I read it I met Piri Thomas he is a great man he tells it as it is and does not hold back. He tells the truth and does it in a fun way. This book is great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2004

    A MUST READ!!!!

    Piri Thomas does an excellent job of protraying his life during a time in history where racism was more direct and in your face. This book will forever be a part of my collection and will recommend to anyone who wants to broaden their perceptions of what was ..... I have read this book several times - READ READ READ READ THIS BOOK!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2003

    A MUST READ!!!!

    Down These Mean Streets is a book that catches your attention right from the beginning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2003

    One of the greatest books ever written

    This book absolutely blew me away. I couldn't put it down. It also gave me real Puerto Rican Pride. It will amaze how after all Piri goes through he ends up writing this autobiography. Although it has it's obsene moments I recomend reading it young to show how hard some people have it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2003

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    THIS IS THE BEST STORY I'VE EVER READ IN MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE, IT IS WONDERFUL AND I LIVE IN THA HOOD I RECOMEND THIS BOOK TO EVERYONE BUT ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO GREW UP IN THA HOOD LIKE ME I HAD TO DEAL WITH ALMOST THE SAME THING PIRI DEALED WITH LIKE DRUGS, ROBBERY, ECT.

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