Sunday, October 16, 2011

Literary Field Trip!

New Museum at Fresno City College Celebrates the Life and Work of Poet Gary Soto

The Gary Soto Literary Museum opened earlier this year in the refurbished Old Administration Building of Fresno City College in Fresno, California.   
Gary Soto is a poet and writer, and one of the nation’s most popular writers for children and young adults.   His books, which have sold nearly four million copies, include Too Many Tamales, Chato’s Kitchen, Baseball in April, and Buried Onions.  While he writes for younger audiences, Gary Soto is also highly regarded in the poetry world.  He has earned fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (twice), and the California Arts Council.   His New and Selected Poems (1995) was a finalist for the National Book Award.   His poem “Oranges” is the most anthologized contemporary poem in history.     

The Gary Soto Literary Museum was designed by Jonathan Hirabayashi.  The museum contains the tools of Soto’s  craft—his first manual typewriter, his first electric typewriter,  his first laptop, as well as manuscripts and letters, photographs, medals and honors, selected art pieces from his private collection, a chair and table where he wrote many of his books, and other memorabilia.  The Museum is the only museum dedicated to a living writer and is open to the public.  

In Soto's address for the opening of the museum, he explained his purpose: "I'm here as a cheerleader for reading, minus the pom-poms, and I'm here to claim a space in defense of poets and writers." On his website, Soto says, "I see [reading] as the only possible avenue to intellectual growth, not to mention the great pleasure that reading offers. My readers, both younger and older, may pick up a book of mine and read it from cover to cover, and I find this devotion to a literary life very moving." Thus, Soto has created a museum "...that provides a glimpse into [his] life as a writer."

To learn more about Gary Soto, his books, and his museum, please visit his website:

Museum photos courtesy of Gary Soto. Photo 1: Gary Soto stands near a metal chest of drawers, each of which holds items of interest, such as photographs, manuscripts, medals, and honors. Photo 2: The living room tableau includes furniture and artwork from Gary's home. Photo 3: The photo mural shows the industrial neighborhood in Fresno where Gary grew up, which is not far from the Sun Maid Raisin factory where his family members worked.