Gary Soto, born on April 12th, 1952 is a proud Mexican-American that grew up in a very low class neighborhood in Fresno, California with both of his parents (Gillespie, Becker 100). Soto exclaimed that he was marginal kid; this means that he could have either ended up in prison or easily graduate from college. He put forth more effort in other things than school, such as girls or work. As a child and teen Mr. Soto was never interested in his schooling but he tried his hardest to find work. He never realized how important school was until after he graduated from high school with a below average grade point average at a 1. . After he finished high school he attended a community college and got inspired to start writing poetry. Mr. Soto felt as if he had a knack for writing, so he transferred to a Fresno State in California. After he finished college he wrote and won awards for a book of poetry at 24 years of age called, “The Elements of San Joaquin. ” Mr. Soto is a very talented writer in adult writing but in the late 1980’s he started to tackle children books and succeeded. He currently writes poetry books for all ages and he manages to have time to be a full time English lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley (Needham).
I believe that Soto’s work in poetry and books can be humorous, serious, and very moving and the way he describes the scene in his writings help contribute to his talent as a writer. Spoken by the author from the article called, “The First R,” that was published in the New York Times, “Gary Soto decided to become a poet in college after reading a bittersweet poem by Edward Field called “Unwanted. ” Then Soto explained that it is a story of a man that feels like everyone singles him out and Soto felt like it connected to his own life.
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Gary Soto’s poems are very detailed, and Soto makes you feel as if you can imagine every little aspect of his story. Mr. Soto says in “The First R,” he likes to write about normal things from his childhood past. In a line of one of Soto’s poem entitled, “Oranges” he talks about walking in the winter to a store with a girl and his words quickly turn into clear images. “December. Frost cracking Beneath my steps, my breath Before me, then gone. ” Soto can easily draw a mental picture within the reader’s head, although now, he does not need to as much since he started write books for children that have pictures in them.
In one of Gary Soto’s books, The Old Man and His Door, he writes on the first page about a song in Mexico that says: “La puerta. El Puerco. There’s no difference to el viejo” (2). He exclaims right after that a viejo is an old man, puerta is a door, and that a puerco is a pig. He wants all the readers to understand what certain things mean in his story, for the fact that readers do not get lost since throughout the story he uses both English and Spanish. Gary Soto does this so he can incorporate his Mexican-American past.
This story sticks with his ethnicity and his Mexican background; it is about an old Hispanic man and how he does not listen well. For most of the book the old man is walking alone to a cookout where his family and friends are. Gary Soto has illustrations in this book, but his words paint a picture within themselves. “The old man continued on his way to the barbecue, whistling and playing kick-the-rock. The road was empty and the blue sky as wide as a hat. ” This shows how he simply he can draw a mental picture of something in someone’s head even though there is a picture underneath, it lets you compare your image to his. To Be A Man,” by Gary Soto is about his own memories as a low class Mexican-American in California. In the short story Mr. Soto exclaims when he was younger he pushed a lawn mower, door to door trying to find someone who would pay him to cut their grass. At the time he did not know that his area was in the lower-class bracket, “It struck me like a ball. They were poor, but I didn’t even recognize them. I left the projects and tried houses with a little luck, and began to wonder if they too housed the poor” (101). This is significant because later he speaks about how he was so oblivious to how he grew up.
Later in this childhood story he stated that he wanted to become a hobo since he thought there was no jobs for him in the world since he did not want to work like his father. He exclaimed that his dad would come home with blistery hands, sit down their living room chair and stare at the television for the rest of the night. At the end of this story he starts talking about how he became who he is now, and why he fell into his career. “It’s been twenty years since I went door to door. Now I am living this other life that seems a dream. How did I get here?
What line on my palm arched in a small fortune? I sit before students, before grade books, before other professors talking about books they’ve yet to write, so surprised that I’m far from that man on the sidewalk” (101). This quote from “To Be A Man,” is a very smart and somewhat humorous line, because Mr. Soto realizes that he could have easily been a hobo on that very sidewalk he walks on. These two stories, “The Old Man and His Door” and “To Be A Man” along with his poem “Oranges,” all include something to do with his past and his Hispanic background.
In “The Old Man and His Door,” Mr. Soto really emphasizes the Mexican ethnicity by including Spanish into his writing, but he also clarifies it for the readers that are not bilingual. While in “To Be A Man” and “Oranges,” Gary Soto tells some of his childhood stories. The unique thing about these stories is that the main points of them are not life changing moments in Mr. Soto life, but they are just simple and ordinary moments. Gary Soto’s can also tell stories in more than just poems, novels, and short stories; he also has made two films telling some stories of his childhood.
Gary Soto practically started with nothing in Fresno, California but a great memory, and as a child he did not know of any way of using it. He barely got through high school, but Mr. Soto decided to go to college because he was scared he was going to get drafted for the war or have to work a job he did not want (Needham). Soto got into poetry because he felt as if he could express some of his dark past and also some of his ordinary moments in his childhood. Most of Soto’s poems and stories come from some part of his past, from his Mexican heritage to a baseball mitt he wore as a child (White).
The way he can describe a scene in his poems is a magnificent skill that helps him keeps the writers attention like the way described the coldness in Oranges. Gary Soto said, “Frost cracking beneath his feet,” this meaning that he was describing the noise that his feet were making while walking on the snow. From the writings of Gary Soto, I found out that he can from a hard childhood but managed his way through and became a talented writer that came draw a mental image in his reader’s head while he incorporates serious topics as well as humorous childhood stories.