Gary Soto writes that when he was five “what I knew best was at ground level.” In this lively collection of short essays, Soto takes his reader to a ground level perspective, recreating in vivid detail the sights, sounds, smells, and textures he knew growing up in his Fresno, California neighborhood. The “things” of his boyhood tie it all together: his Buddha “splotched with gold,” the taps of his shoes and the “engines of sparks that lived beneath my soles,” his worn tennies smelling of “summer grass, asphalt, the moist sock breathing the defeat of baseball.” The child’s world is made up of small things–small very important things.
A respected poet and an innovator of the short essay form, Soto offers nearly snapshot-like glances of moments unique in form yet universal in content. Growing up Chicano and male, Soto gives us a rag-tag race through his neighborhood, speaking equally as well to the childhood experiences of us all.
Anyone who remembers the fifties or who knows anything about growing up in the fifties will relish Soto’s rich poetic descriptions. Teachers and students of writing will relish Soto’s rich poetic descriptions. Teachers and students of writing will also find inspiration in these tightly knit and highly imaginative stories. Soto offers much more than humorous and poignant recollections; he wraps each memory in a poetry that lingers pleasantly in the reader’s mind.
GARY SOTO’S books have sold more than three million copies and are well-known in classrooms throughout the country. His poem “Oranges” is the most anthologized poem in contemporary literature. He has received the Literature Award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the PEN West Award for Petty Crimes, and the Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association. The Gary Soto Literary Museum is located at Fresno City College. For more information, visit www.garysoto.com.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments The Buddha The Grandfather The Taps The Hand Brake The Giant The Bike The Almonds The Magic Tricks The War Years The Sirens The Colors The Rhino The Shirt The Inner Tube The Pie The Haircut The Confession The Catfish The In-Between Dinner Snacks The Chicks The New and Old Tennies The Guardian Angel The Fights The Gymnast The Promises The Locket The Hero The Beatles The Babysitter The Stray The Weather The Canal The Nile The Drive-In Movies The Groups The Talk The Computer Date The Wrestlers The River
A Summer Life 3.8 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Over this past summer I read the book A Summer Life by Gary Soto. He has written several novels, memoirs and a large amount of poetry. A summer Life is one of his memoirs and it was written in 1990. He was also born April 12, 1952 in Fresno, California. Gary Soto is Mexican American and that is reflected in the contents of this memoir.
In this memoir Gary Soto describes his child hood summers in several short essays. The book is also separated into three sections. Section one is around the time he is five years old and the book continues until section three, during his high school years. In his essays he focuses on tiny details. When he begins to describe little things, such as, blades of grass you know that it must be from a small child's point of view.
One of the many essays from A Summer Life that has still stuck with me, even after summer, is the apple pie essay. In this story he finds himself steeling an apple pie from the local bakery. This essay is a good example of Gary Soto's writing because he uses his usual detail and imagery to portray what the experience was like for him as a child. I personally am fond of this particular story because it has a pleasant tone, which makes reading it quite enjoyable. While describing this story he wrote, "I laid more pieces on my tongue, wet finger-dripping pieces, until I was finished and felt like crying because it was about the best thing I had ever tasted." I think that sentence perfectly describes his feelings toward the whole entire event while still including his fantastic detail. In this sentence he tells you how guilty he felt eating the pie while at the same time making you want a huge piece of it, which shows that he knows how to get the reader engaged. Although the apple pie essay has stuck with me many of his other essays were able to engage me and get me interested in what he was writing about.
After reading A Summer Life I realized it was one of the better summer reading books I had ever read. I found this book entertaining because the tone was happy and light which made it a perfect summer reading book. At night when I would read this book it would make me think about my own day and how I barely even noticed the little details that could have made my day so much better. I found that very useful because the next day I would go out and try to focus on all small details that surrounded me.
Another thing I found that I liked about this book was the evolution of his writing. At the beginning he is about five years old and by the end he is almost done high school. I liked this because you saw the change of his opinions. Of course the opinions of a preschooler aren't going to be the same as a teenager, this makes the progression through his book interesting. One other unique entity I found about this book was that it was written in several short essays. Reading a book that is formatted in this way is easy for me because after each essay I feel like I have read a whole book. Feeling that sense of accomplishment makes it easier for me to get through the whole book there fore completing the book in a shorter time.
One final item I thoroughly enjoyed about Soto's writing is that he was great at making you feel like you were six years old again. What I mean by this is that through his details and imagery he was able to portray the feelings that a six year old has towards the simplest of situations. He was able to perfectly explain the guilt that a six-year feels towar
More than 1 year ago
I read Gary Soto's 'A Summer Life' while I was writing my first book in order to educate myself in the creation of vibrant, evocative scenes that come out of ordinary, every day experiences. For example, in Soto's essay, 'The Shirt,' he shows how the tragic, post-Korean War existence of Uncle Shorty seemed magical and special to a young Soto who covets his uncle's shirt: 'I used to slip it on when he was asleep, and at the age of five I knew the smell of a man who went and came back from war....It was the shape of muscle, the anger of a tattoo panther hiding behind cotton, the hair in the collar, the small hole where a bullet could have entered and exited without his dying.' Or, with the simple first line of 'The Weather,' Soto can set the stage for the mysteries of climate: 'January doesn't show its true face until you can scratch a cold window with a finger.' This little book will make you smile (and sometimes wince) as it brings back your own personal memories of growing up. This is a wonderful collection that offers everyone, including new writers, a chance to enjoy and learn from beautifully crafted essays.
More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book. Its about a group of siblings not older than 7 years causing mischief and mayhem throughout the neighborhood.
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