The up in a poor Hispanic neighborhood and did

The Inspiring Poet

            Gary Soto is quite an inspiring poet
and writer. He has lived a life full of influential experiences that have led
him to who he is now as a great writer. Soto’s writing style and inspiration help
to grasp readers’ attention through his attention to detail and relatable
instances. The key to his writing was his experiences growing up in a poor
Hispanic culture.

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Soto was born on April 12, 1952 in
Fresno, California. (“Gary Soto”) Soto is married and has one child, a
daughter. Both his parents worked as laborers and he himself worked as a
laborer as soon as he was old enough to help his family. “When Soto was five
years old, tragedy struck his family; Manuel Soto died as a result of a factory
accident at the age of twenty-seven.” (Wilson 644) After his father’s death his
family was faced with even more hardships. Soto grew up in a poor Hispanic
neighborhood and did not do well in school as a child. In 1970 he went to
Fresno City College so that he could avoid the draft. (Lee 189) While he was at
Fresno City College Soto became interested in poetry after one day while,

a library, he picked up an anthology, The
New American Poetry, edited by Donald Allen. The poems—by Edward Field,
Gregory Corso, Kenneth Koch, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti—were lively,
irreverent, and audacious, and Soto was hooked. “I though, Wow, wow, wow. I
wanted to do this thing.” (Lee 190)

later transferred to and graduated from Cal State University in 1974. Soto went
on further with his education and in 1976 he earned his MFA from The University
of California. It was only one year after graduating in 1977 that his first
book of poems was published. (Lee 190)

Soto has written many poems, children’s
books, short stories and even a few films. He has received numerous awards for
his works. His works are reflections of his childhood and what his personal experience
was like growing up as a Hispanic and the hardships he faced. His first book of
poems, The Elements of San Joaquin,
had great reviews. In one journal it is noted “Critics praised the book-as well
as the volumes that followed, The Tale of
Sunlight and Where Sparrows Work Hard-for
Soto’s frank, desolate portrait of migrant life, his short, enjambed lines and
idiomatic diction, and his ability to shift from naturalism to magic realism,
from the apocalyptic to the transcendent.” (Lee 190) This sheds light on how he
was able to begin his career with such a strong impact. This particular
critique definitely displayed the notable ability of Soto to write with great attention
to detail. His use of naturalism helps to paint a vivid picture which helps the
reader visualize with great detail. Also his uses of personal experience allows
for readers to relate. Soto’s first three published works shed light on what it
was like growing up in poverty and the affects growing up in poverty had on
people. He followed these rather quickly with a fourth publishing and a fifth
which put his work in a new genre, autobiographical
prose. “In this memoir and the one that immediately followed it, Small
Faces, Soto vividly re-creates the racially mixed, laboring-class
neighborhood in which he was raised, the struggles his family endured to
provide the children with a safe environment, and the central dilemma of a life
continually lived on the margins as a product of two cultures.” (Wilson 647) His
passion was clearly evident in his culturally centered works which he had breathed
first hand. Soto was able to write from personal experience and allowed people
to see things from the inside out based on his experiences.

Shortly after beginning to write in a
new genre, Soto went on to try his hand in writing children’s literature in the
90s. “A first volume of short stories for young readers, Baseball in
April, and Other Stories, was published in 1990. The eleven tales
depict Mexican American boys and girls as they enter adolescence in Hispanic
California neighborhoods.” (“Gary Soto”) Even though he was now writing for a
new target age group he was still sticking to displaying his Hispanic heritage
in his works. During this time even though he we was writing for adolescents
Soto still used real life issues that allowed young readers to relate to the
topics in the stories. He received many critiques on these, mostly all good
ones, such as this one, “To Michel Cart in Booklist, “his
greatest gift to readers may be the attention he focuses on meaningful
lives.” (“Gary Soto”) This to me simply restates the fact that the real
life issues he writes about are easily relatable by the intended audience whether
young or old. There were many works written by Soto and he wrote for many
different ages. Soto also went as far as publishing children’s picture books.
Just as in his other work he stuck to the Hispanic culture in these picture books
as well. His work was reviewed as, “Soto’s pithy text uses a mix of
Spanish and English to great effect,” noted a reviewer in Publishers
Weekly, and a critic in Kirkus Reviews deemed the
work “a multicultural lesson with lots of zip.” (“Gary Soto”) His
ability to display his own life and culture through his writing has made him
very popular.

The way that Soto was able to become so
expressive using his heritage is quite inspiring. He wrote to give incite to
his own life and express the life of Hispanics in poverty. His writing can be
seen not necessarily to educate but mostly to display, recollect and relate to
his Hispanic life experiences. “Soto’s voice has been heard by readers of all
ages; but, as he told me in an interview, he does not write with an audience in
mind.” (Fabiano) This shows how he writes to express not to impress. Another
line from this journal “Soto does not simply tell about his experiences or
despair about the light of the poor. His power comes from showing, from
painting pictures that allow the reader to feel the wonder, promise, and pain
of everyday life.” (Fabiano) This goes to show simply that Soto portrays his
stories similar to real life and in some cases actual real life so that makes
them more easily to relate to. Soto’s passion for writing can easily be felt in
any of his works and dedication to detail.

Soto’s hard work and dedication has
gained him many awards and acknowledgments. Just to mention some of his awards
let us look at a list:

“Discovery-Nation prize, 1975; United States Award, International Poetry
Forum, 1976, for The Elements of San Joaquin; Bess Hokin Prize, Poetry, 1978;
Guggenheim fellowship, 1979-80; National Endowment for the Arts fellowships,
1981, 1991; Levinson Award, Poetry, 1984;
American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1985, for Living up the Street; California Arts Council fellowship, 1989; Beatty Award,
California Library Association, 1991, Reading Magic Award, Parenting magazine, and George G. Stone Center Recognition of
Merit, Claremont Graduate School, 1993, all for Baseball in April, and Other Stories; Carnegie Medal, 1993, for The Pool Party;National Book Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize
finalist, both 1995, both for New and Selected Poems; Literature
Award, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, 1999; Author-Illustrator Civil Rights
Award, National Education Association, 1999; PEN American Center West Book
Award, 1999, for Petty Crimes; Silver Medal, Commonwealth Club of California/Tomás
Rivera Prize; the Gary Soto Literary Museum was established at Fresno City
College, 2010.” (“Gary Soto”)

list shows how much he has accomplished since the beginning of his career as a
writer and how much he continues to accomplish. Some of his works received multiple
awards which show just how great he is at his passion.

            Gary Soto has and continues to live
an inspiring life while pursuing his passion and voicing his cultures struggles.
His works have encouraged many and are well known beyond his Hispanic culture. Soto’s
Hispanic culture continues to motivate him and he still has so much more he can
offer through his passionate work especially with all the issues going on
politically at this particular point in time.