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Down These Mean Streets

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  2,840 ratings  ·  234 reviews
Memoir, coming of age on the streets of Spanish Harlem by Puerto Rican. Dark-skinned morenito had family who ignored African blood. Consolation from drugs, street fighting, and armed robbery end when Piri 22 goes to Sing Sing prison for shooting a cop. His journey continues to self-acceptance, faith, and inner confidence. 30-year anniversary edition has Intro by author.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 25th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1967)
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Four and a half stars, really.

I wish someone had introduced me to this book when I was 14 years old to let me know someone else was thinking some of the crazy shit I thought and to put my own peculiar road (so different from Piri's) in perspective.

I read it for one field lists for my PhD in English, but I was moved by it, by Piri Thomas's voice and the questions he asks himself about race and ethnicity - about what it means to be Puerto Rican when a Puerto Rican can be black or white, but still
The main characters of this book were Piri Thomas, his family, and his girlfriend Trina. This book is a true story about a guy, Piri Thomas growing up and facing many problems. He grew up in Spanish Harlem. He was dealing with gangs,fights,drugs,money,criminal scenes,and much more. He has to make the right decisions when he left his parents house. An internal problem that Piri faces is that he isn't sure if he should go on with the criminal scence to get money. An external problem he faced was ...more
Zack Marcinkiewicz
Piri Thomas is a young boy who grows up in Harlem and has to face various obstacles and is forced to make vital decisions that will ultimately take a toll on his future. Piri witnesses the injustices and sinful behavior of everyone around him, and he must realize that survival of the fittest is essential. But how can he truly be “the fittest” without eventually leading himself into incarceration? Well that’s nearly impossible in his generation. One of the only reasons he gets through everything ...more
Down these mean streets is a story about a young boy growing up in spanish Harlem. We see him go through alot of trouble and pain as he travels through the art of becoming a man. The main character Piri Thomas has an anger problem and grows up showing lots of violence that eventually lands him in jail. One of the central problems in this book is family trouble. Piri as a young boy feels that his father in some way doesn't love him. "Pops i wonder, how come me and you is always on the outs? Is it ...more
Down These Mean Streets
By: Piri Thomas

ISBN: 0-679-78142-0
331 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books

Down these mean streets by Piri Thomas is a very interesting book. It has a lot of details that would put you into the characters foot. Piri Thomas was a 12 years old kid who lived in the Spanish Harlem of New York. He grew up with his friends and they always had each others back. Piri was a boy living in a poor apartment. In the winter it would be freezing temperature in their house. His father h
Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas. This book is a memoir about a kid growing up in spanish Harlem.
This book takes place in Spanish Harlem, the main character Piri he has problems with his father and having difficult time to connect.
This book is fairly good and interesting to read mainly because this book has a lot of drama and Piri wants to solve his problems without any help from anyone.This book affected me in many ways because Piri started smoking and joined a gang which surprised me. Th
The book Down These Mean Streets is a memoir about a young Puerto Rican, named Piri Thomas, growing up in New York City. The book is told from the author's perspective and he gives us a brief look into his mind, where he argues with himself on what to do while facing racial discrimination, a life of crime and drugs, an identity crisis, jail time and a religion conversion. After his prison sentence his perspective of things change but only after he finds that he is slowly going back to his old li ...more
This book is truly amazing. It first caught my eye because it was about a Puerto Rican and as a Puero Rican myself, it loved to see what my own kind have been through before i was born. This book talks about a young boy who goes through many problems in his life and tries to overcome it by changing his ways. I liked the way the author incorporated his spanish slang into it. In the beginning i truly did like the character, but after getting deeper and deeper into the book, i realized the characte ...more
The book Down These Mean Streets is by Piri Thomas. The main topic of the book is a memoir, about Piri who struggles throughout the book. The book addresses many problems. One problem the book address frequently about being prejudice and trying to overcome that problem. The setting of the book takes place in New York,in the 20s and 30s. The main character Piri has problems throughout the book with trusting and making executive decisions. The book is interesting in many ways because the author sh ...more
Jan 08, 2008 Alaina rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like rather depressing books
I didn't particularly like this book... I read it for a book report for a biography.. It's about a boy, Piri Thomas, in his early teens who lives in the segregated neighborhood of Spanish Harlem, also known as, El Barrio. Piri finds, even at a rather young age, that he has to fight to show his strength and bravery. He has to fight people who will later become his close friends; they have to know that he'll be able to back them up and defend himself and keep his "cool". Piri is often faced with t ...more
Patrick O'Neil
I was sick last week so I picked up some light uplifting reading at the library for an extended stay in bed. Piri Thomas' Down These Mean Streets, being one of the books. I'd read it years ago, and then was recently reminded of it by a fellow goodreader, so I decided to try it again. Seriously, it is a well crafted, well written, highly observant, and intelligent book. Thomas wrote this in 1960's, it was published in '67 – and really since then what has changed? Maybe the current drug of choice ...more
The book takes place in 1940's Spanish Harlem. This tells of his struggle with poverty that leads him to do drugs. Also he was involved in a gang when he was young, which put him in jail more than once. After being put into jail many times while in there he used it as rehabilitation, promising to change his ways and help others who went through what he did.
In general the book was good and the story was very well told by Piri Thomas. What I like the most was the amount of details used so that you
This is a great book, i enjoy reading it,because it makes me wonder whats going to happen next and keeps me reading it and not wanting to stop.
This book connects to lots of larger issues that happens to young teens,growing up in neighborhoods where all you see is violence and drugs.
This book can perfectly be described as how hard it is for a young teen to grow up when he feels like he is alone in a cold new world.
Some positive things about this book is that the chapters has titles that give's yo
In Down These Mean streets I learned that it takes a lot of work to notice your mistakes. In the book piri learned from his mistakes becuase he went to jail and then realize that what he did was terrible. I would say that he grew as a person, that he would'nt do the same thing again. This book made me realize that I should'nt do what he did so I won't get thrown in jail. I would recommed this book to evey person because it help me and it will help anybody else. I really like this book and everyb ...more
Kevin Guzman
Wow, what a book! This book is about Piri Thomas when he was a little boy about 12 years old. The story first takes place in Spanish Harlem. This was an inspiring book because I know what the life it is like to struggle. Thomas's father is diligent, but it isn't enough to support his family. So him and his family struggle for a while. Throughout the book there are knuckleheads that continuously bother Thomas! Most of the time it is because they figure he's black instead of Puerto Rican. Thomas t ...more
Mar 12, 2014 Olu is currently reading it
The book down these mean streets is a memoir about the main character Piri Thomas. Throughout the beginning of the story, it explains the environment of which his family and he live. Throughout the beginning it also explains how Piri is financially struggling. There is no real money coming in to support the family. But, later in the book explains how the father was able to save enough money to live in a home better and well stable than his last one. Piri hates his new neighborhood because of the ...more
"Down These Mean Streets" by Piri Thomas was a book that nobody would expect that the person would pass through so many obstacles. When I started reading the book I felt like it was just about a kid who passed through racism and that his father didn't like him anymore. As I kept reading I notice Piri was the author. The author showed us his childhood and what he had to pass through so he once become a author. When Piri was very young he pass through a stage of his father treating him different. ...more
Yasmine Goring
Piri Thomas the narrator of this book, grows up during the Great Depression in Spanish Harlem. His mother is a lighter skin toned Puerto Rican and his father us a "Moreno" a darker skin tone man. His family spends years trying to ignore their African American heritage. Piri feels like he needs to prove that he's not African American. He goes to extremes, such as hanging out with the wrong crowd and doing outrageous things to impress them. Piri gets older and decides to go see what life is really ...more
Daouda Berete
n streets is a great book because it has a lot of good details about the main character Piri. Piri is puerto rican and he doesn't think that he is because everybody in his family is light skined except his father. Piri loves harlem because he could connect with the people in his area. He moved to diferent neighborhoods but he didn't like it because people were making fun of him calling him derogotory names. He even got into multiple fights. After he moved into those neighborhoods he just went do ...more

Took me forever to find this one, but glad it stayed on my list for so long. It was somewhat different than I had expected -- I imagined it to be more 'about the streets,' all drugs and crime and dirty old New York. Instead, the book is about race and identity and coming of age, and it's got a disarmingly honest, straightforward tone that made it fly by.

Need to find out what happened to Piri after his return from prison, all I really got was what the author bio told me.
This book is really good, mainly because its about Piri the main character, he thinks that he's not Puerto Rican like his Family because he's darkskinned. Piri tries to find his true colors and soon faces peer pressure because he moved to a new neighborhood and decided to join a gang and fight others. Later on in the story Piri doesnt change but goes worse, he starts to get involved in drug dealing and at first he conviced himself that he wont get attached to the drugs but Piri spoke to soon. No ...more
Taneysha forsyth

Jul 12, 2007 Dani rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Latino Literature fans
When I picked up this book at the bookstore, I could not put it down. I walked out the store with the book open and finished reading this book a few days later. All the stories of Piri's youth pulled me into his world. I felt as though I was the one growing up during his time. There were many themes that I could personally relate to, themes of prejudice, racism and struggle. This book is surely a book that will make you feel his joy and pain.
The book "Down These Mean Streets" was the first book I've read about a kid like Piri Thomas. Piri was going through poverty and racism. The book cover reminded me of Brooklyn that's why I chose it. Honestly, there were some parts where the same events happened constantly. There were some thrilling events. I wouldn't find myself reading another book like this one. It was mostly about drugs, street fighting, and robbery.
Tristen Ellis2
Down These Mean Streets Summary

Plot Summary

John Thomas, known as Piri, is a child during the Great Depression and grows up in New York. His mother is a light-skinned Puerto Rican and his father is very dark. Piri takes his dark coloring from his father. From the time he is twelve, he knows his father treats him differently from his siblings and he puts it to his own dark-skinned appearance.Piri puts a lot of energy on his efforts to fit in. He puts himself in positions to fight in order to gain
The book was ok. I don't agree with the "fight hate with hate" mentality. The story is ok, but who knows how much is true. A autobiography from a guy that obviously had identity issues. And blamed everyone else. In trying to prove how "tough" he was.... He only proved how weak he is. It seems he may have figured that out later in life.
Serith Ayala
This book is an excellent read. It's mainly about a boy that grew up in Spanish Harlem and throughout the memoir, he struggles because he is a dark skin Puerto Rican and others who are of a different race discriminate against him based on his skin color. For example, he couldn't get a job and if he was in trouble with the cops, they always assumed that Piri was the one who committed the crime.There are other situations in the memoir that Piri had to grow up quickly because he had many responsibi ...more
Nicholas During
A pretty amazing book, both for a look at a East Harlem in the 40s, 50s, 60s and also into the particular identity consciousness of Latinos in the US at the time. Not the best written book in the world but I found it very moving, particularly the prison section, which really showed how hard the transition from being locked up body and soul to truly being free from want and addiction and anger really is. In fact the ending that doesn't show the success story from small-time crim and drug addict t ...more
I love this book, it has all the things i like reading in a book. It had drugs, gangs, fighting, love, sex, stealing and drama. This boy Piri was living in the hood, and he spent most of his time with his friend which did no good. They would either sell drugs, steal from a place or go have sex with girls. Piri was also dealing with racism because he was a black puerto Rican, and didn't know whether he liked his color. His whole family was white except for him and his dad, which he never under st ...more
This book is really interesting. "Down These Mean Streets" is about how the narrator used to spend almost all his teen years in Spanish Harlem with his friends. Piri Thomas' biggest problem was the drugs. Not only did he use them himself but he also sold them because he didn't have a job. Selling drugs was the easiest way for him to make money. When Thomas tried to get a job, he simply didn't get it because of his skin color even though he was Puerto Rican. Besides selling drugs, Piri Thomas and ...more
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Piri Thomas (born Juan Pedro Tomas September 10, 1928 in Spanish Harlem in New York City) is a Puerto Rican-Cuban who is influential in the Nuyorican Movement as a writer and poet.

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“Mira, I wanna tell you something. I ain't got time to tell you what I should've when I had time, but I dig you a whole lot." "Deeg you?" she asked, puzzled. I explained to her what it meant and told her that I would write it to her in Spanish and say it like it was.” 1 likes
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