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Gary Soto: 1952—: Children's Author, Novelist, Poet Biography

Weak Student In High School, Depicted Central Valley In Poems, Wrote Picture Books For Children

Gary Soto: 1952—: Children's author, novelist, poet.

Hailed as one of the top Mexican-American writers in the United States, Gary Soto is also one of the most versatile. Winning awards and acclaim for his poetry in the years after he completed his education, Soto has also written short stories and autobiographical sketches. Almost single-handedly, he has striven to create a literature for young Mexican-American readers; as he turned to writing full time in the 1990s, he devoted his energies increasingly often to poetry, stories, and picture books for children and intermediate students. Much of Soto's writing is drawn on his recollections of growing up poor in California's agricultural Central Valley; many of his readers have the impression that he has an almost unbroken photographic memory of his entire childhood.

Soto is an extremely prolific writer, having created well over 60 books, plus numerous contributions to periodicals and several films, by the early 2000s. But literature was not even present in his childhood home. Soto was born on April 12, 1952, and grew up in Fresno, California, next to a junkyard and across the street from a pickle factory. His parents were Mexican-American laborers, and his father was killed in an industrial accident when Soto was five. His father's death had a long-lasting emotional impact on Soto, who in an interview with NEA Today attributed the detail of his childhood memories to his years of brooding over the accident. "I kept going over those events in my mind until I was in my 30s—thinking if we'd done this instead of that, everything would have been different."

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