Last week the influential and acclaimed writer Piri Thomas died at home in Northern California at the age of 83. Most famous for his memoir “Down These Mean Streets,” the Cuban/Puerto Rican-American was known as a major figure in the Nuyorican literary movement.
Because of his childhood and adolescence which were set against the backdrop of racism, poverty, and violence, and his subsequent time spent in prison after wounding a police officer, Thomas’ memoir is often compared to that of Malcom X’s. Part of what separated his work though, was the fact that few other writers had described the urban Latino experience and the search for racial identity quite like Thomas did, leading him to inspire generations of Latino writers after him.
Thomas also penned other novels, short stories, plays and books of poetry, and aside from writing, dedicated his life to educational outreach and activism.
Excerpt from Thomas’ Sermon From the Ghettos:
I was a child
running through dark ghetto streets
letting the sea of hatred and bigotry
wash over me.
I was too young to know.
But Momma filled my eyes
with the wondrous city,
where there was pity,
and all its pearly gates.
And oh, yeah, all the beautiful wisdoms
that flow from up there.
Read more about his life at the Official Piri Thomas site.
[Photo From Random House]