Down These Mean Streets Homework Questions



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Down These Mean Streets Homework Questions
Monday 11/24

Chapters 1 & 2 (p.3-13)



  1. Describe the setting of Harlem.

  2. Why does Piri run away from home?

3. How does Piri’s mother feel about Puerto Rico?

4. What is going on in America during 1941 and how is Piri’s family affected?

5. Bonus: Describe how Thomas uses dialogue as a literary device. Is it an effective device to convey the relationship between Piri and his family? Why or why not?
Tuesday 11/25

Chapters 3 & 4 (p.14-38)



  1. Describe the change in Piri’s identity when he is with his friends, with his family and with strangers?

  2. On pages 22-23, what do Piri’s thoughts (in italics) tell us about his relationship with his father?

  3. For Piri, what is it like to be a Puerto Rican on an Italian block? What happens to him?

  4. Bonus: What device does Thomas use to make the reader feel sympathy towards Piri at the end of the chapter?

Wednesday 11/26

Chapters 5 & 6 (p.39-63)


  1. Why do Piri and his mother go to the home relief office?

  2. Where do Piri and his family move in Chapter 6? Describe the new setting.

  3. What does it mean to “belong?” What did Piri sacrifice by joining a gang?

  4. Describe the difference between Piri’s thoughts and Piri’s actions. Give at least one example.

  5. Bonus: As a reader, how would you describe Piri’s character at the end of Chapter 6?

Monday 12/1

Chapters 7 & 8 (p. 64-78)


  1. Describe what happens between Piri and Miss Shepard.

  2. Why do you think Ms. Washington specifically called the Principal “white man?”

  3. Are the members of Piri’s gang also his friends? Why or why not?

  4. Bonus: Do Thomas’ inner thoughts (in italics) add to your understanding as a reader? Why or why not?

Tuesday 12/2

Chapters 9 & 10 (p.81-94)


  1. What does Piri overhear Marcia and her friends talking about in the gym?

  2. Why does Piri take out his anger on Angelo?

  3. Compare Marcia and Betty. How are they similar/different through Piri’s eyes?

  4. Why does Piri leave Long Island?

  5. Bonus: Describe racism or oppression that has occurred in these two chapters. How do these occurrences affect Piri?

Wednesday 12/3

Chapters 11 & 12 (p.95-118)


  1. What does Mr. Christian say that shows his ignorance/prejudice towards other cultures/races during the interview? Give two examples.

  2. Why does Piri decide to do drugs (“H”)?

  3. Describe the way Piri treats Trina?

  4. How has Piri changed since the beginning of the novel?

  5. Bonus: What factors have caused Piri to change?

Friday 12/5

Chapters 13 & 14 (p.119-141)


  1. Why do you think it bothers Piri that other people think he is Black?

2. What is Piri’s inner struggle?

3. Why does he want to go down South?

4. Why is the title of chapter 14 “Hung up between two sticks?”


  1. What do you think the significance is of Piri’s encounter with the white woman on the train?

Monday 12/8

Chapters 15 & 16 (p. 142-154)

1. What is the conflict between Piri and Jose?

2. Why does Piri feel like an outsider in his own family?

3. What skin color is valued by Piri? What skin color is valued by Piri’s family?

4. Explain why Piri is going down South.


  1. Bonus:

a. How is skin color related to race?

b. What kind of funeral happens in Chapter 16?


Tuesday 12/9

Chapter 17 (p. 157-168)



  1. Describe Brew’s past in the South.

  2. What is Alayce’s past with white people?

  3. How do Brew and Alayce’s experiences affect their current views of white people “paddies?”

  4. Bonus: Can Trina be white and Puerto Rican? Can Piri be Puerto Rican and Black? Explain.

Wednesday 12/10

Chapter 18 (p.169-178)


  1. Describe the Pennsylvanian man Mr. West and explain what kind of book he wants to write.

  2. There is a lot of dialogue in this chapter. How do their different ways of speaking help shape our understandings of Mr. West, Brew and Piri?

  3. What do Mr. West and Piri have in common?

  4. Bonus: Do you think Mr. West has the right to discuss issues of a race that he does not belong to? Why or why not?

Friday 12/12

Chapters 19 & 20 (p.179-199)


  1. Piri says, “I wish I could be like one of those lizards that change colors.” What does he mean by this?

  2. Describe what happens to Piri in the diner in Mobile? Why does Brew stay outside?

  3. Describe the setting of the South and how it is different from Harlem.

  4. Describe what happens between Piri and his father after his mother’s death.

  5. Bonus: How does Piri identify himself differently in the South than he does in Harlem?

Monday 12/15

Chapters 21 & 22 (p. 200-222)


  1. Why does Piri turns to drugs?

  2. Describe Piri’s experience of quitting drugs/detox.

  3. Who are Danny and Billy? Why is Piri hesitant to get involved with them?

  4. Explain why Piri does not help the old man he hurt in the car dealership.

  5. Bonus: What is the mood/tone of this chapter? What literary devices/techniques are used to create this mood/tone. Give at least 3 examples.

Tuesday 12/16

Chapters 23 & 24 (p.223-238)


  1. Who is Dulcien and what happens between her and Piri?

  2. Describe what Piri means when he says “Harlem don’t let you out so easy?” (p. 225)

  3. Why does Piri decide to become a thief again? What happens to him during the robbery at the nightclub?

  4. Describe the ending of chapter 24.

  5. Bonus: Describe the way Piri treats Dulcien and Trina and the way they react. How are the women portrayed in chapter 23?

Wednesday 12/17

Chapters 25 & 26 (p. 241-254)


  1. When Piri wakes up from surgery, what does he still have to worry about?

  2. Who comes to visit Piri and what does he/she tell him?

  3. How does Piri feel after his jail sentence? Explain.

  4. Describe how Piri escapes the confrontation with Rocky without losing his reputation.

  5. Describe the significance of Piri’s time in jail. How does the setting in jail influence his identity?

Friday 12/19

Chapters 27 & 28 (p.255-268)


  1. Describe what life is like in prison at Comstock.

  2. What happens between Little and Piri? How does their encounter end?

  3. Why does Piri choose not to get involved sexually with the men in prison?

  4. What advice does Piri give Tico?

Monday 12/22

Chapters 29 & 30 (p.269-287)


  1. Describe what happens when Piri’s family visits him in prison.

  2. What happens after Piri hears the news about Trina and how does his life change?

  3. When the riot breaks out in jail, what is Piri’s dilemma?

  4. How does Piri act differently towards the jail warden than he does towards the prison inmates and everyone else in his life?

  5. Bonus: Describe the significance in Piri’s reaction to the jail warden. Why do you think he decides to handle himself differently this time?

Tuesday 12/23

Chapters 31 & 32 (p.288-306)


  1. What role does the religion of Islam play in Piri’s life?

  2. What interests Piri about Islam?

  3. Respond to Muhammad’s quote at the end of chapter 31 (p.297). How do these words relate to Piri?

  4. How does Piri change after 6 years in jail? Give at least 3 examples and explain how the examples prove a change.

  5. Bonus: Do you agree/disagree with Muhammad’s quote on p.297? Explain.

Monday 1/5

Chapters 33 & 34 (p.309-326)


  1. What do Piri and the young boy in his cell have in common?

  2. What does Piri pray for the night before the trial?

  3. Describe the difference between the way Piri imagines seeing Trina and then when he actually sees her in reality.

  4. Bonus: What are Piri’s inner conflicts back in the barrio?

Tuesday 1/6



Chapters 35-Afterward (p.327-337)

  1. Explain the character Carlito. What does Carlito represent for Piri?

  2. Based on the text, what does the future hold for Piri?

  3. Describe three messages the reader learns from Piri in the Afterward?

  4. Bonus:

    1. Why did Piri Thomas write this memoir?

    2. Why is it titled Down These Mean Streets?


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