NEW YORK, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Author Piri Thomas, whose experiences growing up in New York in the mid 20th century inspired a generation of Latino writers, has died at the age of 83.
The Los Angeles Times said Thomas died Monday in El Cerrito, Calif., where he had lived since 1983.
Thomas made his mark on the East Coast, where he parlayed his rough childhood into the 1967 memoir "Down These Mean Streets," which the Times said has been compared to works of similar genre such as "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" and "Manchild in the Promised Land."
"Down These Mean Streets" deals with Thomas' experiences as a Latino in Depression-era New York, which included an underlying racial tension, crime and his imprisonment for shooting a police officer during a robbery.
"Thomas was one of my most important influences," said Junto Diaz, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."
"He was the first Latino Caribbean writer I encountered who wove the U.S. Latino experience into a larger American conversation that engaged both white supremacy and the African American experience," Diaz said.
The Times said Thomas was an accomplished poet as well as a novelist. He co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York and gave readings after his move to California.