Walking ‘Down These Mean Streets’ with Piri Thomas

Helloooooooo everyone! Welcome back to #alexjostories! Today we are taking a walk ‘Down These Mean Streets’, more exactly we are taking a walk down the streets of New York City with the amazing author Piri Thomas. This book will be the center subject of my second essay. I know… Meh! Even if I am not into writing this essay, I wanted to talk to you about this book because it’s really interesting and full of symbolism. It actually is a really powerful text.

Let me tell you some background information about the author. Piri Thomas is a Puerto Rican writer born in the United States, more exactly in the Spanish Harlem and this book is a memoir of his life. He was founded by the Rabinowitz Foundation to write and publish his memoir. I understood from my teacher that writing this book was a way to raise awareness regarding heroin and the impact drugs have on the life of young children. He has been struggling with poverty, identity, the city, his color, drugs and a lot of other elements. This memoir has become a best- selling text and has been in print for over 45 years now, being originally published in 1967.

The book is firstly set in the Spanish Harlem, but throughout the text, the location is constantly changing; Spanish Harlem, Italian Harlem, Long Island and also the prison. The Spanish Harlem is the center of the book as the main character is constantly coming back to his first home, even if he seems to have mixed feelings about it. (Throughout the book it seems that he doesn’t feel like home anywhere.) When you’ll read this book, you’ll understand immediately that the primal theme of the text is: identity. Piri Thomas focused so much on his struggles as a mixed-race child that you simply can’t miss this. The main character is struggling with the fact that his Puerto Rican mother is white, his Cuban father who is brown, almost black, but his skin is of dark color. He considers himself black and continually trying to feel included in a society. He compares himself to his brothers who were white and is jealous of the fact that they do not feel left out by others as he usually does.

My take on this is that he eventually relies on the city and on his home than on his own family. He believes that if the city will welcome him, then he will finally feel included and will finally feel like himself. I will try and not give you any spoiler because I hate when people do that. The book is structured in the way to present his upbringing. Honestly, it is a powerful book, but it isn’t that interesting to keep you intrigued throughout the entire book. I mean the author is so focused on the issue of identity and also the differences between black people and white people. At a certain point, you get over it. I mean I was like: ‘OMG is still talking about this?’

I hope you guys enjoyed this article! Do read this book and try to picture his feelings because it has really powerful meaning behind each paragraph. As the exam period is coming fast over us and I have to read a few books, we will have a series of articles in the #Bookstoread category. P.S. A funny story, I was in my seminar and we were talking about this book. My teacher leaned on his chair and said to us with a kind of lost look on his face and he said: ‘I really don’t like this book’. It was a really hilarious moment as he is the one who set the book for us to read.

Let me know how you feel about it and what do you think. I’ll #seeyousoon, guys!

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