An American author and poet.. Mexican-American author and poet
Gary Soto (born 1952) is an American author and poet. He has received many awards for his writing, which is centered on the Mexican American experience.
Soto was born in Fresno, California, to working-class Mexican American parents. He grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, where he worked as a migrant laborer. Throughout high school Soto was fascinated by the poetic works of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Jules Vernes, Robert Frost, and Thorton Wilder. Gary began writing after he discovered the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and he became hooked.
Uncertain of his abilities, he began his academic career at Fresno City College, moving on to California State University, Fresno for his undergraduate degree, and the University of California, Irvine, where he earned an M.F.A. degree (1976). In 1975, he married Carolyn Oda, a Japanese American.
His work earned him recognition as early as 1975, when he won an Academy of American Poets Prize. His first book of poems, The Elements of San Joaquin, which contains grim pictures of Mexican American life in California's Central Valley, was published in 1977. In 1985, he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught in both the English and Chicano studies departments. He stopped teaching in 1993 to write full-time, but returned to teaching in 2000 with a post at University of California, Riverside.
His prolific output of poetry, memoirs, essays, and fiction continues unabated and has earned him numerous prizes, including an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for Living up the Street (1985). One critic points out that Soto has transcended the social commentary of his early work and shifted to "a more personal, less politically motivated poetry." Another argues that "Gary Soto has become not an important Chicano poet but an important American poet."