What the Critics Say About...
Down These Mean Streets
...this is the autobiography of Piri Thomas, son of a light skinned Puerto Rican mother and a dark skinned Puerto Rican (sic) father.... It claims our attention and emotional response because of the honesty and pain of a life led in outlaw, fringe status, where the dream is always to escape.... [T]hen begins the most powerful section of the book. Unlike the first portions, it is composed more like poetry than prose. Which brings me to one of the best qualities this...book possesses. It is something of a linguistic event. Gutter language, Spanish imagery and personal poetics...mingle into a kind of individual statement that has very much its own sound....
-- Daniel Stern, The New York Times Book Review, May 21,1967.
Seven Long Times
[A]s a former counselor for the adolescent inmates at Rikers Island...I consider the book most valuable. First, as a personal record of incarceration in the early fifties--a portrait readily identifiable in the seventies, it shows the geological slowness with which the correction system has changed.
Thomas has written an intensely human document of one man's will for survival....
Thomas follows in a long tradition of prison writers: Jean Genet, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and George Jackson.
-- Tom Seligson, The New York Times Book Review, September 22, 1974.
Stories from El Barrio
Piri has written a book we can all share. The power, tenderness, toughness, and the caring are all there...
-- Nikki Giovanni, English professor, and author of Racism 101
El Barrio is a crystal clear reflection of the general facet of Piri Thomas's literary power. It is tender, powerfully compassionate, humanely provocative.
-- Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land
The Golden Streets
. . .the play talks right to the audience with a message that bears constant repeating and offers little reassurance: these people are forgotten, pushed aside, often forced into drugs and delinquency.
-- Mel Gussow, The New York Times, August 14, 1970
Sounds Of The Streets
[Piri's recorded poetry] . ..will bring you face to face with the beauty. .. of Harlem as we know it. He will take you inside the soul of Afro-Boricua passion and strength. He will make you laugh and cry and feel proud to be alive.
-- Avotcja, poet, writer, disc jockey at KPOO, SF and KPFA, Berkeley, CA
No Mo' Barrio Blues
There's very few poets who can dance with the spoken word the way Piri can. Author of the landmark novel Down These Mean Streets, here he twirls and embraces twelve exquisite pieces that convey a message that love and positive energy can conquer much. A variety of musical soundscapes drape his verse as Piri opens his life to us with reflections of growing up in East Harlem (In My Barrio), his family (Papi was a Dancin' Man), and odes to grim urban realities. Sermon From the Ghetto, which features the prodigious saxophone of Enrique Fernández and the steel pans of Jeff Narrell, questions (over a Caribbean-tinged samba) the hypocrisy of an America that lies to itself "on bended knee" as children die "physically, mentally, morally, spiritually, and secretly in broad daylight."
To further expound the point, Bang Bang slams the grim issue of youth and handgun violence with a wisdom of a seasoned elder who's been to too many funerals. But this isn't just a date of depressing subjects and includes beautiful flows on love, relationships, and being a Latino beat poet in the fifties. With tenderness and intimacy, Piri can weave a story that entrances you with each breath and phrase. His verse is timeless with a gift that rose from the streets to speak to our hearts and soul. These "wordsongs" are a testament to a creative individual who was shackled but whose creative fire burns to elevate us beyond the madness
-- Jesus (Chuy) Varela, a music critic, disc jokey, in KPFA Berkeley, CA
Piri Thomas è nato a New York nel 1928, maggiore di sette figli e cresciuto nella Harlem ispanica, è stato coinvolto in storie di gangs e di droga. Dopo sette anni di prigione è ritornato al suo vecchio quartiere come assistente sociale per i giovani. Più tardi a Portorico ha elaborato un programma di riabilitazione chiamato "The New Breed" dove ex tossicodipendenti lavorano con i tossicodipendenti. Il suo primo libro, l'autobiografia "Down These Mean Streets" diventato un cult-book è stato...