"A stunning autobiography of corruption and innocence"
BARRIE & JENKINS 1970
JACKET DESIGN BY BARRY MARTIN
DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS is the document of one man's journey from childhood to maturity; it is at once moving and terrifying, shocking and tender, touching and stunning.
Piri Thomas, son of Puerto Rican parents - one dark, one white - was born in New York's Spanish Harlem and grew up in those "mean streets." From the time that he first ran away from home at the age of fourteen, the author records the sometimes poetic, sometimes brutal story of his life.
In Spanish Harlem Piri Thomas did not so much grow up as erupt into manhood, through street fights, gang rumbles, drugs, homosexuality, petty thievery, girls, hospitals, the merchant marine, illegitimate parenthood, and ultimately an attempted robbery of a New York nightclub, the shooting of a Policeman, and a long prison sentence.
Finally, in that world of isolated conflicts and constant threars from guards and fellow prisoners alike, the man emerges, through various influences and experiences, with a clearer understanding of himself and a knowledge of those streets through which he has moved to maturity.
But Piri Thomas's memoir is not merely his story - for shooting through these pages are figures that create a vigorous yet brooding world of family gaiety, sudden pain and sorrow, violent impulses and aching wonder: his brothers, sisters, and parents, his friends, the people of the streets, and those of the prion.
The language is the most corrupt of the city and also that of the most innocent reaches of the human heart, and it reveals overwhelmingly a man's deep masculine integrity and his need to understand himself and why he does what he does.