Outstanding Grads 2012: César Soto

Uploaded by CalStateNorthridge on 14.05.2012

My parents, they were concerned with survival. You know, we're working class.
So they didn't get an education past the third grade.
So they didn't know how to cultivate my love of reading.
They didn't know how to foster these academic interests,
and so I was very lonely a lot of the time.
I think when I turned 15, I discovered that
being a bad boy, that got me attention. The crazier things that I did,
the more people I felt gave me more acceptance. So I started to become valued,
maybe for negative reasons.
So I think that's why I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade.
I worked at several menial labor jobs, and then still kind of read in secret.
So I went to Valley College and I had a disastrous
first semester. I just didn't have the study skills. I didn't, um--
I think deep down inside I knew that I was smart.
I knew that my reading, my love of reading
had helped me in some ways to become a better communicator, writer.
I dropped out of Valley College again for a couple of years and worked some more
menial labor jobs. And then I guess I was ready to go back.
I went back and retook all the classes I had failed, and surprisingly I got all A's.
And I thought, okay, maybe I could go to CSUN. I double majored in Chicano Studies and
Honors English. So I ended up writing an undergraduate thesis
on Tomás Rivera's "And The Earth Did Not Devour Him"
and actually ended up winning the thesis of the year award in my department.
I guess I wasn't done learning from them, and that's why I decided to stay here
to get my master's. My parents are really proud but I'm proud
of them for what they transmitted to me. My father, Guadalupe Soto, for instance,
he's a construction worker. He never missed a day of work.
He could be hurting, suffering from some ailment, sick, his foot is hurting,
but he will show up to work and compete with men who are forty years younger than he is.
So from him I learned the value of tenacity, of being persistent.
My mother, she knows how to speak to people, and she transmitted that to me.
So I'm able to speak to professors at conferences, here, ever since I was a young kid,
and I think I owe that to my mom. Coming from a blue collar background,
what does it mean to be a male? That often does not include a love of the
arts, literature. And so, when I came to college, and I took
literary theory, all of a sudden it was kind of cool.
Like, now my nerdiness was something that was, like, looked up to, valued.