Gary Soto: Biography, Books & Poems

Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

Gary Soto has been widely praised for his entertaining stories for people of all ages. He has a unique writing style in which he integrates his past experiences, feelings, and Mexican culture. Learn more about Gary Soto through this lesson.


Would you believe that a person who grew up deprived of reading would go on to become one of the most praised writers in all of literature? This same person did not excel in early education, and had dreams of becoming a paleontologist. His name is Gary Soto, and he is recognized for creating entertaining stories for all ages about his own experiences, feelings, and Mexican culture.

Who is Gary Soto?


Early Life

Gary Soto was born on April 12, 1952 in Fresno, California. He grew up in a working class family. His parents struggled finding work, so Soto worked in the fields and in factories as a young kid to help with the family finances. He grew up in a culture that did not encourage reading, so he never had too many books to read growing up. As a kid, the thought of becoming a writer was never a consideration for Soto. In fact, he wanted to be a priest and a paleontologist growing up due to his love for his religion and dinosaurs.

Soto struggled in school, but was able to get by. After graduating high school, Soto would attend Fresno City College and California State University to study geology. He changed his major from geology to English when he came upon the works of John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Jules Verne, and Robert Frost. He found the poems to be relaxing, and motivating. He liked them so much that he began to write his own.

Soto found his calling in writing and enrolled in a poetry course. In 1974, he earned a bachelor's degree in English. Soto would continue his education by attending the University of California Irvine, earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Path to Success

In 1977, Soto wrote his first book, The Elements of San Joaquin. His writings about growing up as a Mexican-American were well received, and he continued to write several others. He always felt it was important to create stories that would give others an insight about his heritage. Soto has been asked whether or not his stories are based on actual events. He has stated that he likes to write about things he sees and reads about, and throws it all into one story. He always makes sure to put his characters in situations that are believable as a means of adding realism for his audience.

In 1990, Soto would turn his attention to write stories aimed at a different audience--children and young adults. In 1990 he found success with his first compilation of short stories for teenage readers, Baseball in April. Soto continued his focus on Hispanic heritage, but wrote stories teenagers could relate to. He was praised for his work, and applauded for the entertaining coming-of-age tales aimed at this population of readers.

Soto also created many picture books for children. One thing that sets his work apart is his ability to integrate Spanish words into English text. Some of his most popular works include Chatos Kitchen (1995) and My Little Car/Mi Carrito (2006). Soto continues to write to this day.

Gary Soto's Work

Although his work focuses on Mexican heritage, Soto has been praised for his ability to write in a way that allows anyone reading it to relate and be entertained. Below you will find information about some of his most famous works.

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