Faced with hopelessness in a New York barrio, Piri Thomas survived by joining a gang, using drugs and resorting to petty theft and armed robbery. Convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 1950, he discovered a world in prison much like the one in which he grew up. Rather than let it get him down, he turned his life around. Paroled at 28, he dedicated himself to keeping kids away from drugs and crime. In 1967, he published “Down These Mean Streets” which chronicled his new life. The novel received such rave reviews that he published “Savior, Savior, Hold My Hand” and “Seven Long Times.” One of the most widely known cultivators of the ethnic autobiography, Thomas dedicated his time speaking about his life and the issues facing minorities in America.
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