The late author and poet Piri Thomas had a remarkable life. Born during the Depression in Spanish Harlem, he endured a childhood filled with poverty, racism, and street crime, which ultimately led to time in prison. Through it all, the only refuge he had was spending countless hours at the library: “Reading helped me to realize that there was a world out there far vaster than the narrow confines of El Barrio.” Down These Mean Streets, Thomas’s 1967 memoir, joined the ranks of other powerful books, such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, for its story of how Thomas survived the streets and changed his life for the better. Thomas died in October 2011 at the age of 83, and tonight at An Homage to Piri Thomas, writers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, Martin Espada, and Willie Perdomo honor the words of the Cuban–Puerto Rican scribe with readings of his inspiring poetry.

Sat., Feb. 18, 7 p.m., 2012