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Background Gary Soto was born on April 12 1952 in the farming community of Fresno California to Mexican-American parents In his essay Being Mean he talks of how his father and grandfather worked at the Sun Maid Raisin Factory and his mother peeled potatoes at Reddispud Sotos father faced an early death due to a work-related incident and his mother remarried In his collection of poems entitled Home Course in Religion Soto talks of the arguments that his mother and stepfather had showing a difficult relationship between the two Due to the familys poverty Soto was forced to work and earn money as an agricultural laborer in Californias San Joaquin Valley and the tire-retread factory in Fresno His earlier poems focus on this personal history Although Soto comes from a tough background and does not mention it in his poetry he does have an impressive academic background He graduated magna cum laude from California State University at Fresno with a degree in English 1974 In 1976 he received a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of California Irvine Boyle 3112-3113 Soto began writing poems in 1974 while studying geography in college He was inspired one day while working on a term paper he came upon an anthology of contemporary poetry The poems in this book were unlike any poetry Soto had ever encountered These poems were not flowery and beautiful but rather about subjects such as junked cars and rundown houses After reading these poems and others he started to write his own poetry Soto found his want to write poetry odd because as a child he was not encouraged to read and did not have books Reluctant at first he gave up his study of geography and decided to become a poet after reading Edward Fields poem Unwanted in which he talks of how he wanting recognition and love Soto was inspired
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