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Down These Mean Streets

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,890 ratings  ·  305 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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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,890 ratings  ·  305 reviews

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Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: latino-lit
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
Sam Fertig
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm too lazy to write a review of this. It's amazing, and also necessary. That is all.
Zack Marcinkiewicz
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Hope Morgan
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book :
, is very well written,very visual, you feel like you are on the streets with the author. Also despite knowing the story, each chapter is an unexpected series of events.

The story, :
a semi autobiographical story of Piri Thomas a Puerto Rican who gets caught up in the street in 1940’s - 1950’s including gangs, prison etc. However despite most descriptions, Piri issues aren’t due to per se, living i the ghetto or poverty or family dysfunction ( although they create a perfect setting) It
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was required reading for class but it was a good read. I don’t even know how to review this because its in no way the perfect book, but it so interesting to look at how Piri deals with his masculinity and his race (or denial of his race, if you will) and so many other issues. Also this book sadly says a lot about us latinxs. I don’t really know what else to say... cksfjfkdj. It’s a quick read, so if you’re interested in Nuyorican identity/Piri’s life then give it a go.
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
For me, this book is about symmetry. This 30th Anniversary Edition was published about 19 years ago - roughly a year before the two oldest girls in our book club for incarcerated youth were born. This is the final book they've read with the club, as they will be transferred to adult units within the next month. I have my opinions, but await theirs and how this aligns, intersects and diverges from their experience. It all rings true, yet I want to know their assessment as women who are even more ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it

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.
Taneysha forsyth
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing

Pattie Nauheimer Ekman
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked this book to finish out my reading challenge. Turned out to be one of my favorites. It's very real and the characters are well defined. There is some strong language, so when I used excerpts from it, I had to mark out some words. Very relatable text for urban kids, even though it is almost 50 years old.
Apr 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Compelling and with incredible relevance,
Thomas' portrait of the trials inherent in minority racial identity and hetero-masculinity in the U.S. is profound.
However, the work is unapologetic in its rampant misogyny, making it an important read, but not an inspiring one.
Hannah Mill
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars because of the deep emotional connection with the characters and their character development. This book conveyed many emotions in it that the reader was really able to feel and grasp onto. Even if you weren’t able to connect to the events happening in the book, like I was, you were still able to feel and know what Piri was thinking. You were able to feel the pain, hurt, and frustration that Piri had after his mother’s death and his fight with his father. ...more
Kevin Guzman
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Travis Owusu
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Down these Mean Streets by Piri Thomas.
The genre of this book is a Memoir.
The main character of this book is Piri Thomas, his family and his street friends.
The main conflict of this book was Piri trying to survive the streets of Spanish Harlem.

Down These Mean Streets was a memoir about the life of young Piri Thomas trying to survive the streets of Spanish Harlem, but in those means streets full of racism, gangsters and poverty, it's extremely hard to survive. It's also worse at home with his ver
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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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.

“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.” 3 likes
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