One of the childhood poems I adored as a kid was by a man named Gary Soto. He was the first Latino poet I ever knew. I was twelve when I first picked up his book at the Book Fair that year (at my school’s annual Book Fair).

I never thought much about the importance of reading work from other ethnic groups until I read his poetry.  I did not realize at twelve how much I was shaped by literature and poetry from those who were of European descent. I want to be clear and say there is nothing wrong with reading literature and poetry from European writers. The issue I had was that it was mostly what I grew up on. There was not much diversity when it came to reading work from non-European writers.

Gary opened my eyes to the fact that other ethnicities were interesting and had their own unique stories to tell.  Therefore, I have to recognize him for this.  His poem “Oranges” spoke to me in a way that no other poem had at that point in my life.

I won’t reprint the poem because I don’t have permission but I ask everyone to please search it on Google and read it.  The imagery was so real to me.  I felt I could relate to the character.  I think we all remember being twelve or thirteen and experiencing our first real crush.  It was past the silly crush days where you hit each other because you liked each other. No, I’m talking about when you started to really understand what it meant to like another person beyond them being ‘kind of cute’.

“Oranges” would have meant something to you.

I am grateful I was able to discover many other writers with unique writing styles and voices when I got older. I am grateful reading Gary even later lead me to more black women writers like Octavia Butler.

What writer are you grateful for?

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