Why did Gary Soto write Buried Onions?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gary Soto’s background can be seen in plot, themes, and characters.  Soto is Mexican American, and like Eddie in the story, lost his father and was raised by his mother. Soto, too, like Eddie, grew up in Fresno, and Soto’s parents and grandparents were originally farm workers in the fields, and while the people in the story now live in the urban barrio, they are still limited in occupation and life choices, just as Soto when growing up.  The title of the work “Buried Onion,” uses a metaphor that combines the difficulty of life in the barrio with life as a farm worker in the fields. Eddie explains, “Soon the black asphalt would shimmer with vapors, which were not released by the sun's heat but by a huge onion buried under the city. This onion made us cry. ... Perhaps as practice for the coming years. I thought about the giant onion, that remarkable bulb of sadness.”  Soto wrote this story, and other stories about youth of Mexican-American heritage, to explain the challenges these young adults face as a result of their poverty and limited life choices.  He also wants to encourage reading in Mexican-American children by writing stories that speak to the lives many live. Soto said in an interview, “"Because I believe in literature and the depth of living it adds to our years, my task is to start Chicanos reading.”