for his graduation ceremony (Letter). A graduate of California State University, Fresno, and the University of California, Irvine, where he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing (1976), Soto is known for his poetry, short stories, and children's books. He is the author of 10 poetry collections. Among honors he has received are the Discover/Nation Prize (1975), two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982 and 1991), and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation (1979). He teaches at the University of California, Riverside.
Soto's work speaks to young people and those who feel out of place in the mainstream. Michael Manson suggests that Soto's writing breaks "what critics have valued as the 'continuity of American Poetry' with Puritanism" (263), confirming that even the most "American literature" is a "border product reflecting the plural origins of the United States" (264). Soto's poem "Oranges" (1985) depicts a young man of 12 attempting his first date, with a nickel and two oranges in his pocket. When the young girl chooses a candy bar that costs a dime, the speaker "took the nickel from / [his] pocket, then an orange." Their eyes meet: She knows "what it was all / About." Before this bartered exchange, the girl is referred to as "she." As the young couple exits the store, her status has changed. Soto writes that he "took my girl's hand in mine." Soto's work offers insightful reflections on childhood experiences. While it reflects the "plural origins" of American literature, it also dissolves "borders," as readers recognize elements of their own youth in his poems.
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