Gary Soto Biography
(1952– ), Living up the Street: Narrative Recollections, The Tale of Sunlight, New and Selected Poems
Chicano poet and prose writer, born in Fresno, California, educated at California State University, Fresno, and the University of California, Irvine. During his childhood he worked as a migrant farm labourer. Soto's social concerns and poetic style have led to comparisons with Philip Levine, his former teacher at Fresno, who also deals with the plight of the American worker. Others have noted that Soto's writing transcends social commentary and represents a shift within Chicano literature towards a more personal and less political agenda. Soto has insisted that although he addresses Mexican themes in his earlier poetry and in the collection of prose memoirs Living up the Street: Narrative Recollections (1985), his writing also focuses on the suffering that poverty engenders. Many of his poems, such as those in his second volume of poems, The Tale of Sunlight (1978), celebrate a childlike and consolatory imagination. Soto's later work expands to include issues of friendship, love, and parenthood. In the 1990s he produced several short works of fiction centring on youthful protagonists confronting typical adolescent dilemmas. New and Selected Poems appeared in 1995. He became a professor of Chicano studies and English at the University of California, Berkeley. See Latino/Latina Literature in English.