Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Piri Thomas and Gary Soto

Piri Thomas, the Puerto Rican-Cuban-American poet and activist, passed away last week. He is best known in the YA world for Stories from El Barrio, his 1978 collection of short stories and poems about young people growing up in Harlem, one of the earliest YA books written by a U.S.-born Latino for and about Latino youth. In 1978, Thomas wrote an editorial for the New York Times in response to the case involving the 1976 removal of nine titles, including his autobiographical novel Down These Mean Streets, from the libraries of Long Island junior and senior high schools. In the essay, he addresses the role writing and libraries played in his life as a young person. I'm linking to the essay in honor of Piri, but also because it sounds a lot like Sherman Alexie's response earlier this year to a Wall Street Journal article about the "ever-more-appalling" YA lit. Thirty-some years later, different subject matter, same players.

Also, Cynthia Leitich Smith has added Jo Ellen Misakian's interview with Gary Soto on her blog. Soto, author of many children's and YA books, discusses his writing as well as the Gary Soto Museum at Fresno State University. It looks amazing!

P.S. There is at least one other cover for a more recent edition of Stories from El Barrio, but I love this one because it has that 70s / 80s YA paperback look that takes me back!

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