Fresno City College is expected to open the Gary Soto Literary Museum in February, the first ever such facility dedicated to a living writer according to the American Association of Museums. Soto attended the school and grew up in Fresno, and though he currently lives in the Bay Area, his ties to his home city and alma mater remain strong.
“It’s very cool that a student at the college could read and study Gary Soto as part of his course work, and then walk down the street and instantly learn more,” said Dewey Blanton, a spokesman for the museum association based in Washington, D.C.
Soto has long campaigned for reading and literacy, traveling around the state engaging students of various ages who would appreciate everything from his poetry to his children’s literature. Though The Fresno Bee notes that Soto is not an exhibit at the museum himself, he’s frequently on hand (at least until the docent program is running) to talk to visiting classes about his work and hopefully inspire them to read and write, even if they’re struggling in school as he was.
Drawers in a cabinet offer bits of the poet’s history – a baptismal gown, a T-shirt he wore in a United Farm Workers march and manuscripts bloodied with criticism.
“This is flat,” reads one editing note.
Soto hopes museum visitors will be curious about what they see, from a 1940s manual typewriter to a pile of pinto beans. Those humble beans were his first toys.