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Other influences from this period include Edward Field, James Wright, Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.Soto earned an MFA from the University of California-Irvine in 1974.He successfully conveys the pain of guilt exceptional use of imagery, contrast, and repetition.
He has received many awards for his work as a children’s author, including awards from the National Education Association and the PEN Center. Gary Soto was born in Fresno, California in 1952 to working-class parents who often struggled to find work.
Soto worked in both the fields of San Joaquin and the factories of Fresno as a young man; though he did not excel in school, by the time he was an adolescent Soto admits to having discovered the work of Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Jules Verne, and Robert Frost.
"Soto's remembrances are as sharply defined and appealing as bright new coins," wrote Alicia Fields in the "His language is spare and simple yet vivid." But it is his joyful outlook, strong enough to transcend the poverty of the barrio that makes his work so popular.
Contrasting the holy, righteous behavior encouraged by his neighbors, church, and society with the hungry, animalistic greed of a six year old boy riddled with boredom, Soto explores the concepts of right and wrong through a child’s eyes.
In his writing, as Raymund Paredes noted in the "Soto establishes his acute sense of ethnicity and, simultaneously, his belief that certain emotions, values, and experiences transcend ethnic boundaries and allegiances." Soto himself has said that “as a writer, my duty is not to make people perfect, particularly Mexican Americans. I’m one who provides portraits of people in the rush of life.” Soto has received high praise for his poetry—his collections have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and he has received a However, Soto is perhaps best known and most beloved as a writer for children and young adults.
Exploring universal themes like alienation, family life, and choices, Soto’s work for young and adolescent readers has been praised for its honest portrayal of communities too often relegated to the margins of American life.The book is arranged in three sections covering Soto’s early childhood, preadolescence, and the time prior to adulthood. In the first section, his world is bounded by his neighborhood and his eyes see this world in the sharp, concrete images of childhood.In “The Hand Brake,” for example, he writes, “One afternoon in July, I invented a brake for a child’s running legs. I found it in the alley that ran alongside our house, among the rain-swollen magazines, pencils, a gutted clock and sun-baked rubber bands that cracked when I bunched them around my fingers.” Soto’s Latino heritage forms the background.After slipping the pie under his Frisbee and departing the store with great haste, he sits to consume his stolen treasure in a nearby lawn.“The sun wavered between the branches of a yellowish sycamore.“In short,” he has said, “I was already thinking like a poet, already filling myself with literature.” Soto went on to college at Fresno City College and California State University-Fresno, where he earned a BA in English in 1974.While at Fresno, Soto studied with the poet Philip Levine whose sharp portrayals of working-class subject matter influenced Soto’s own poetry.His first book, offers a grim portrait of Mexican-American life.His poems depict the violence of urban life, the exhausting labor of rural life, and the futility of trying to recapture the innocence of childhood.Soto’s prose—including memoirs, short stories and novels—also engages themes that are central to his poetry.In collections like (1988) he uses vignettes drawn from his own childhood.