Piri Thomas

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Piri Thomas

"Born Juan Pedro Tomás, of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents in New York City's Spanish Harlem in 1928, Piri Thomas began his struggle for survival, identity, and recognition at an early age. The vicious street environment of poverty, racism, and street crime took its toll and he served seven years of nightmarish incarceration at hard labor. But, with the knowledge that he had not been born a criminal, he rose above his violent background of drugs and gang warfare, and he vowed to use his street and prison know-how to reach hard core youth and turn them away from a life of crime.

"In 1967, with a grant from the Rabinowitz Foundation, both his career and fame as an author were launched with the electrifying autobiography, Down These Mean Streets. After more than 25 years of being constantly in print, it is now considered a classic.

"In Down These Mean Streets, Piri Thomas made El Barrio (the neighborhood) a household word to multitudes of non-Spanish-speaking readers. A front-page review in the New York Times book review section May 21, 1967 proclaimed: "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."

"Savior, Savior Hold My Hand also received wide critical acclaim, as did Seven Long Times, a chronicle of one man's experience in New York's dehumanizing penal system. Stories from El Barrio, a collection of short stories, is for young people of all ages.

"Piri's extensive travel in Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Europe, and the United States has also been perceptively documented in free-lance articles by him. His eye-opening experiences have contributed to a unique globalist perspective on peace and justice so necessary in these days of international problems and conflicts.

"Piri currently resides in Berkeley, California, with his wife Suzanne Dod Thomas and two daughters. He is working on a book entitled HYPERLINK "" A Matter of Dignity (the sequel to Down These Mean Streets), refining the play, The Golden Streets, publishing, recording, and distributing his poetry with music, Sounds Of The Streets and No Mo' Barrio Blues. He is also working with award-winning director Jonathan Robinson on an educational film, HYPERLINK "" Dialogue with Society, with an award-winning director, publishing his books in audio form, and writing and recording more poetry with music, in addition to speaking at universities and schools and in the community throughout the United States." [1]

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  1. Visiones: Episode Descriptions, nalac, accessed October 15, 2009.