Mexican-American Author Gary Soto entertained a full house with his humorous and amusing tales during a lecture presentation at The University of Texas-Pan American Thursday, Feb. 20.
The event - sponsored by the UTPA English Department in honor of the University's 75th anniversary celebration - attracted an audience of more than 500, most of which included high school and junior high students from across the Rio Grande Valley.
"This is my audience. They are whom I'm writing for, and this is what I'm all about," Soto said about his young and enthusiastic audience. "Although we are of a different age, there is a connection between us."
During the presentation, Soto read from several of his publications - most of which were inspired from his life experiences. Audience members said they related to many of Soto's writings, and were attracted to them because of his simplistic writing style.
"I was reading his book "Local News," and I like the fact that it's simple to understand, and you can also relate to it," said Joshua Morales, 17, who is an aspiring author from Donna High School. "I like to write myself so maybe he can give me some pointers."
Dr. Steven Schneider, chair for the UTPA English Department and event organizer, said Soto's visit to UTPA is a special one because of his connection with the people of the area.
"The English department has a tradition of bringing prominent authors like Gary Soto to campus in order to provide a rich cultural experience for both our students and the larger public community," Schneider said. "Soto celebrates Mexican-American life in his work and has received several literary awards. The students and the community benefited because they were given the opportunity to hear directly from one of the leading literary voices of our time."
After the reading, audience members were given the opportunity to ask the award winning author questions.
Soto, who was born and raised in Fresno, California, is the author of 10 poetry collections, and numerous essays and children's books. In 1995, he received the Los Angles Time Award and was nominated for the National Book Award for his book "New and Selected Poems"; and his recollection "Living Up The Street" received a Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award. Soto also wrote the libretto to the opera "Nerdlandia" for the Los Angeles Opera.
To help the community, Soto serves as the Young Person's Ambassador for the United Farm Workers of America and the California Rural Legal Assistance.