Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gary Soto Biography

AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.Gary Soto is a man who writes from experience. He grew up in one of the many barrios (poor Mexican American neighborhoods) of Fresno, California, and since the mid-1970s he has borrowed from that community to create an astonishing number of works. Soto, however, does not see himself as strictly a Chicano author. True, in his over twenty books of poetry and prose for adults and in over thirty books for younger readers, he focuses on the daily trials and tribulations of Spanish-speaking Americans. But, through crisp, clear imagery and his true-to-life characters, Soto connects with readers of all ages and backgrounds. As he explained in his Scholastic Booklist biography, “Even though I write a lot about life in the barrio, I am really writing about the feelings and experiences of most American kids.” As a result, Soto is considered to be one of the most important contemporary authors in the United States.

Gary Soto was born on April 12, 1952, the second child of Manuel and Angie Soto. The family lived in Fresno, California, and like many Mexican Americans Soto’s parents and grandparents worked as laborers in the surrounding San Joaquin Valley, the agricultural center of the state. Typical jobs included picking oranges, cotton, and grapes for very little pay, or working in the often dangerous packing houses of local businesses, such as the Sunmaid Raisin Company. When Soto was just five years old, his father was killed in an accident while working at Sunmaid. Manuel Soto’s death had a devastating effect on his family, both emotionally and economically. Gary was hit particularly hard and spent years brooding over the accident. And Angie Soto was left with three small children to raise: oldest son Rick, middle child Gary, and Debra, the youngest.


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