Soto Like Mexicans

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Like Mexicans
Gary Soto (1952 -)
My grandmother gave me bad advice and good advice when I was in my early teens. For the bad advice, she said that I should become a barber because they made good money and listened to the radio all day. “Honey, they don’t work como burros,” she would say every time I visited her.
She made the sound of donkeys braying. “Like that, honey!”
For the good advice, she said that I should marry a Mexican girl. “No Okies, hijo”—she would say— “Look, my son.
He marry one and they fight every day about I don’t know what and I don’t know what.” For her, everyone who wasn’t
Mexican, black, or Asian were Okies. The French were Okies, the Italians in suits were Okies. When I asked about Jews, whom I had read about, she asked for a picture. I rode home on my bicycle and returned with a calendar depicting the important races of the world. “Pues si, son Okies tambien!” she said, nodding her head.
She waved the calendar away and we went to the living room where she lectured me on the virtues of the Mexican girl: first, she could cook and, second, she acted like a woman, not a man, in her husband’s home. She said she would tell me about a third when I got a little older.
I asked my mother about it—becoming a barber and marrying Mexican.
She was in the kitchen. Steam curled from a pot of boiling beans, the radio was on, looking as squat as a loaf of bread. “Well, if you want to be a barber— they say they make good money.” She slapped a round steak with a knife, her glasses slipping down with each strike. She stopped and looked up. “If you find a good Mexican girl, marry her of course.” She returned to slapping the meat and I went to the backyard where my brother and David King were sitting on the lawn feeling the inside of their cheeks.
“This is what girls feel like,” my brother said, rubbing the inside of his cheek. David put three fingers inside his mouth and scratched. I ignored them and climbed the back fence to see my best friend,

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