Gary Soto was born in Fresno, California, in April 12, 1952, to working-class Mexican-American parents. At a young age, he worked in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley. He was not academically motivated as a child, but became interested in poetry during his high school years.
He attended Fresno City college and California State University at Fresno while working toward an undergraduate degree, and later studied poetry at the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his MFA in 1976.
His first collection of poems, The Elements of San Joaquin (University of Pittsburgh Press), won the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum in 1976 and was published in 1977. The New York Times Book Review honored the book by reprinting six of the poems. His second book of poems, The Tale of Sunlight (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Since then, he has published numerous books of poetry, including A Simple Plan (Chronicle Books, 2007) and New and Selected Poems (Chronicle Books, 1995), which was a National Book Award finalist.
About his work, the writer Joyce Carol Oates has said, "Gary Soto's poems are fast, funny, heartening, and achingly believable, like Polaroid love letters, or snatches of music heard out of a passing car; patches of beauty like patches of sunlight; the very pulse of a life."
He has also written three novels, including Amnesia in a Republican County (University of New Mexico Press, 2003); a memoir, Living Up the Street (Strawberry Hill Press, 1985), for which he received the Before Columbus 1985 American Book Award; and numerous young adult and children's books. He has edited three anthologies, including Pieces of the Heart: New Chicano Fiction (Chronicle Books, 1993).
Soto's honors include the Andrew Carnegie Medal, the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum, The Nation/"Discovery" Prize, and the Bess Hokin Prize and the Levinson Award from Poetry magazine. He has also received fellowships from the California Arts Council, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Northern California.
You Kiss by th' Book: New Poems from Shakespeare's Line (Chronicle Books, 2016)
A Simple Plan (Chronicle Books, 2007)
One Kind of Faith (Chronicle Books, 2003)
New and Selected Poems (Chronicle Books, 1995)
Home Course in Religion (Chronicle Books, 1991)
A Fire in My Hands (Scholastic, 1990)
Who Will Know Us? (Chronicle Books, 1990)
Lesser Evils: Ten Quartets (Arte Publico Press, 1988)
Small Faces (Arte Publico Press, 1986)
Black Hair (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985)
Where Sparrows Word Hard (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981)
Father Is a Pillow Tied to a Broom (Slow Loris Press, 1980)
The Tale of Sunlight (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978)
The Elements of San Joaquin (University of Pittsburgh Press)
What Poets Are Like: Up and Down with the Writing Life (Sasquatch Books, 2013)
Amnesia in a Republican Country: A Novel (University of New Mexico Press, 2003)
Living Up the Street: Narrative Recollections (Strawberry Hill Press, 1985)
Buried Onions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006)
Too Many Tamales (Puffin Books, 1996)
Canto Familiar (Harcourt Brace, 1995)
Baseball in April and Other Stories (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990)