In an autobiography written for Scholastic, Gary Soto writes, “To me the finest praise is when a reader says, I can see your stories. This is what I’m always working for, a story that becomes alive and meaningful in the reader’s mind.”
Gary Soto was born in 1952 in Fresno, California. As a kid, he didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a great writer; he wanted to be either a priest or a paleontologist. His life growing up was difficult. His parents worked as laborers, and his father died when Gary was only five. Following his death, his mother struggled to make ends meet. School wasn’t a priority for Gary or his family. When he was in high school, Gary’s grades were less than ideal.
Still, Gary read books by great authors like Ernest Hemmingway and John Steinbeck. When he was in college, he discovered poetry, and he was hooked. He decided to become an English major. He eventually earned a Master of Fine Arts degree and taught at the University of California.
As a Mexican American, Gary Soto likes to write about issues and experiences he had growing up in the Mexican American culture, but he also likes to write stories and poems that all people can relate to and understand, regardless of where they grew up. His books for young people contain themes and events that all kids can understand. He has written all kinds of genres: plays, novels, poems, memoirs, and films.
Gary Soto has written many books for children, teens, and adults, and has received awards for his writing. Additionally, he has been a spokesperson for the United Farm Workers of America – an organization that promotes the rights of migrant farm workers.
Gary Soto still lives and writes in California.
Migrant Farm Workers
A migrant farm worker is someone who travels with the growing seasons - harvesting crops as they ripen. These laborers have historically been paid low wages, and have poor working and living conditions. The children of migrant workers often also work; their schooling is interrupted or incomplete as they travel from town to town with their parents.
Cesar Chavez was a farm worker who founded the United Farm Workers. The organization works to improve working conditions for migrant workers. By encouraging boycottsof particular farm products, United Farm Workers has been successful in improving working conditions and wages for laborers.
Gary Soto has been the Young People Ambassador for the United Farm Workers of America. As he travels around the country speaking to schools, he shares stories of migrant farmers with them.