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Piri Thomas

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Thomas Lask

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In one way, the Barrio (the Puerto Rican enclave in New York) is all over ["Stories from El Barrio"]. The street argot with its mixture of English and Spanish, the tenements and their dim apartments, the local food and life styles are present in abundance. The flavor of that life is present all right. But in a more meaningful sense, the Barrio is not there at all. The eight stories that make Piri Thomas's book are anecdotes, and the Barrio is incidental to the happenings in his tales….

Nothing in these stories establishes an organic link to the Barrio. They just happen to happen there. Perhaps Mr. Thomas felt that filling in the detail was enough. It's not. After all, as the title suggests, the Barrio is more than a geographical indication. It's a state of mind, a way of life, and it faces an adversary environment. One would never guess it from these brief stories.

Thomas Lask, "Childrens Book: 'Stories from El Barrio'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 4, 1979, p. 32.

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Cathy Clancy