Piri Thomas Cathy Clancy - Essay

Cathy Clancy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Piri Thomas's ability to combine in a character youthful innocence with street wisdom, an ability so well displayed in Down These Mean Streets, sometimes fails him [in Stories from El Barrio]. In "Mighty Miguel," for example, a boy's fantasies too closely resemble a drug user's dreams. In "The Blue Wings and the Puerto Rican Knights," also, the violence committed by clownish gang fighters does not seem shocking or tragic but just unbelievable. The author simply had not set the mood for tragedy in the story. On the other hand, some of the stories succeed very well. In "The Konk" the reader shares with a fourteen-year old boy his shame over his Afro hair and his further shame over straightening it. The adventures of three tenderfoot scouts ring true in "The Three Mosquiteers," and fans of the happy ending should be satisfied with the finish of a championship boxing match between best friends in "Amigo Brothers." The stories are simple enough to be used with slow readers, and the collection will satisfy the demand for Puerto Rican fiction for readers too young to enjoy Down These Mean Streets or Nicholasa Mohr's short stories.

Cathy Clancy, "'Stories from El Barrio'," in Young Adult Cooperative Book Review Group of Massachusetts, Vol. 15, No. 3, February, 1979, p. 65.