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Myers, Walter Dean 1937–

Myers, Walter Dean 1937–

(Stacie Johnson, Walter M. Myers)

Personal

Born Walter Milton Myers, August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, WV; son of George Ambrose and Mary Myers; raised from age three by Herbert Julius (a shipping clerk) and Florence (a factory worker) Dean; married (marriage dissolved); married Constance Brendel, June 19, 1973; children: (first marriage) Karen, Michael Dean; (second marriage) Christopher. Education: Attended City College of the City University of New York; Empire State College, B.A., 1984.

Addresses

Home—Jersey City, NJ. E-mail—mailbox@walterdeanmyers.net.

Career

New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, employment supervisor, 1966-70; Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc. (publisher), New York, NY, senior trade books editor, 1970-77; full-time writer, beginning 1977. Teacher of creative writing and black history on a part-time basis in New York, NY, 1974-75; worked variously as a post-office clerk, inter-office messenger, and an interviewer at a factory. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954-57.

Member

PEN, Harlem Writers Guild.

Awards, Honors

Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1968, for Where Does the Day Go?; Children's Book of the Year, Child Study Association of America (CSAA), 1972, for The Dancers; Notable Book designation, American Library Association (ALA), 1975, and Woodward Park School Annual Book Award, 1976, both for Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff; Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1978, for It Ain't All for Nothin', and 1979, for The Young Landlords; Coretta Scott King Award, 1980, for The Young Landlords; Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1981, and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council for Social Studies/Children's Book Council, 1982, both for The Legend of Tarik; runner-up, Edgar Allan Poe Award, and Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA,

1982, both for Hoops; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1982, for Won't Know till I Get There, 1984, for The Outside Shot, and 1988, for Fallen Angels; New Jersey Institute of Technology Authors Award, 1983, for Tales of a Dead King; Coretta Scott King Award, 1985, for Motown and Didi; Children's Book of the Year, CSAA, 1987, for Adventure in Granada; Parents' Choice Award, 1987, for Crystal; New Jersey Institute of Technology Authors Award and Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1988, Coretta Scott King Award, 1989, and Children's Book Award, South Carolina Association of School Librarians, 1991, all for Fallen Angels; Notable Book and Best Books for Young Adults designations, ALA, both 1988, both for Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid; Notable Book designation, ALA, 1988, and Newbery Medal Honor Book designation, ALA, 1989, both for Scorpions; Parents' Choice Award, 1990, for The Mouse Rap; Golden Kite Award Honor Book, and Jane Addams Award Honor Book designation, both 1991, and Coretta Scott King Award, and Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book designation, both 1992, all for Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom; Parents' Choice Award, 1992, for The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book, 1992, and Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book, and Newbery Medal Honor Book designation, both 1993, all for Somewhere in the Darkness; Jeremiah Ludington Award, Educational Paperback Association, 1993, for "18 Pine St." series; CRABberry Award, 1993, for Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary; Margaret A. Edwards Award, ALA/SchoolLibrary Journal, 1994, for contributions to young adult literature; Coretta Scott King Award, 1997, for Slam!; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book designation, 1997, for Harlem: A Poem; Michael Printz Award, and Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book designation, both ALA, both 2000, both for Monster; Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, International Reading Association, 2005, for Here in Harlem; May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award, ALA, 2009; several child-selected awards.

Writings

FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, Viking (New York, NY), 1975.

Brainstorm, photographs by Chuck Freedman, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1977.

Mojo and the Russians, Viking (New York, NY), 1977.

Victory for Jamie, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1977.

It Ain't All for Nothin', Viking (New York, NY), 1978.

The Young Landlords, Viking (New York, NY), 1979.

The Golden Serpent, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, Viking (New York, NY), 1980.

Hoops, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.

The Legend of Tarik, Viking (New York, NY), 1981.

Won't Know till I Get There, Viking (New York, NY), 1982.

The Nicholas Factor, Viking (New York, NY), 1983.

Tales of a Dead King, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.

Motown and Didi: A Love Story, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.

The Outside Shot, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

Sweet Illusions, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1986.

Crystal, Viking (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, HarperTrophy (New York, NY), 2001.

Scorpions, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid, illustrated by Rodney Pate, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1988.

Fallen Angels, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.

The Mouse Rap, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1990.

Somewhere in the Darkness, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Mop, Moondance, and the Nagasaki Knights, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.

The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

The Glory Field, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Darnell Rock Reporting, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.

Shadow of the Red Moon, illustrated by son Christopher Myers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Sniffy Blue, Ace Crime Detective: The Case of the Missing Ruby and Other Stories, illustrated by David J.A. Sims, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Slam!, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.

The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A World War II Soldier, Normandy, France, 1944, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Monster, illustrated by Christopher Myers, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Blues of Flats Brown, illustrated by Nina Laden, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2000.

145th Street: Short Stories, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

The Journal of Biddy Owens and the Negro Leagues, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Three Swords for Granada, illustrated by John Speirs, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2002.

Handbook for Boys, illustrated by Matthew Bandsuch, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

A Time to Love: Stories from the Old Testament, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Beast, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Dream Bearer, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Shooter, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2004.

Southern Fried, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.

Autobiography of My Dead Brother, HarperTempest/Amistad (New York, NY), 2005.

Street Love, HarperTempest/Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.

Harlem Summer, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

What They Found: Love on 145th St. (short stories), Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Game, HarperTeen (New York, NY), 2008.

Sunrise over Fallujah (sequel to Fallen Angels), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2008.

Dope Stick, HarperTeen/Amistad (New York, NY), 2009.

Creator and editor of "18 Pine Street" series of young-adult novels, Bantam, beginning 1992. Work represented in anthologies, including What We Must SEE: Young Black Storytellers, Dodd, 1971, and We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans.

"ARROW" SERIES

Adventure in Granada, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

The Hidden Shrine, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

Duel in the Desert, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

Ambush in the Amazon, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

JUVENILE NONFICTION

The World of Work: A Guide to Choosing a Career, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1975.

Social Welfare, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1976.

Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, illustrated by Frederick Porter, Raintree (Austin, TX), 1992.

Young Martin's Promise (picture book), illustrated by Barbara Higgins Bond, Raintree (Austin, TX), 1992.

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

One More River to Cross: An African-American Photograph Album, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.

Turning Points: When Everything Changes, Troll Communications (Matwah, NJ), 1996.

Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Fight for Haiti's Freedom, illustrated by Jacob Lawrence, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Bad Boy: A Memoir, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

USS Constellation: Pride of the American Navy, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.

I've Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Antarctica: Journeys to the South Pole, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

(With William Miles) The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2008.

PICTURE BOOKS

(Under name Walter M. Myers) Where Does the Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty, Parents Magazine Press, 1969.

The Dragon Takes a Wife, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1972.

The Dancers, illustrated by Anne Rockwell, Parents Magazine Press, 1972.

Fly, Jimmy, Fly!, illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Putnam (New York, NY), 1974.

The Black Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush, Viking (New York, NY), 1980.

Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird, illustrated by Leslie Morrill, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

The Story of the Three Kingdoms, illustrated by Ashley Bryan, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World, illustrated by Synthia Saint James, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.

Harlem: A Poem, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Jazz, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2006.

Amiri and Odette: A Dance for Two, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2009.

POETRY

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Remember Us Well: An Album of Pictures and Verse, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Glorious Angels: A Celebration of Children, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Angel to Angel: A Mother's Gift of Love, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.

Blues Journey, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.

UNDER NAME STACIE JOHNSON

Sort of Sisters, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.

The Party, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.

The Prince, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.

Contributor of articles and fiction to books and to periodicals, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Argosy, Black Creation, Black World, Boy's Life, Ebony, Jr.!, Espionage, Essence, McCall's, National Enquirer, Negro Digest, and Scholastic; also contributor of poetry to university reviews and quarterlies.

Adaptations

The Young Landlords was made into a film by Topol Productions. Mojo and the Russians was made into a videorecording by Children's Television International, Great Plains National Instructional Television Library, 1980. Demco Media released videos of Fallen Angels and Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid in 1988, Scorpions in 1990, and The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner in 1996. Darnell Rock Reporting was released on video in 1996. Harlem: A Poem was released as a combination book and audio version in 1997. Scorpions was adapted as a sound recording in 1998.

Sidelights

Deemed "a giant among children's and young adult authors" by Frances Bradburn in the Wilson Library Bulletin, Walter Dean Myers ranks among the best-known contemporary American writers for children and teens. An author of African-American descent, Myers is credited with helping to redefine the image of blacks in juvenile literature through award-winning books such as The Glory Field, Monster, and Somewhere in the Darkness.

During the 1960s and 1970s African-American writers such as Alice Childress, Lucille Clifton, Eloise Greenfield, Virginia Hamilton, and Sharon Bell Mathis sought to provide realistic storylines and well-rounded portrayals of black characters in books for younger readers. As a member of this group, Myers distinguished himself by bringing both humor and poignancy to his work, as well by creating books with special appeal to boys; in addition, he is considered the only prominent male writer of the group to have consistently published books of quality. A versatile and prolific author, Myers has written realistic and historical fiction, mysteries, adventure stories, fantasies, nonfiction, poetry, and picture books. Praised for his contributions to several genres, he is perhaps best known for his books geared for readers in middle school and high school, stories that range from farcical, lighthearted tales for preteens to powerful, moving novels for older adolescents. Myers stresses the more positive aspects of black urban life in his works; often setting his stories in his boyhood home of Harlem, he is acknowledged for depicting the strength and dignity of his characters without downplaying the harsh realities of their lives.

Although he features both young men and women as protagonists, Myers is noted for his focus on young black males. His themes often include the relationship between fathers and sons as well as the search for identity and self-worth in an environment of poverty, drugs, gangs, and racism. Although his characters confront difficult issues, Myers stresses survival, pride, and hope in his works, which are filled with love and laughter and a strong sense of possibility for the future of their protagonists. Lauded for his understanding of the young, Myers is acclaimed as the creator of believable, sympathetic adolescent characters; he is also praised for creating realistic dialogue, some of which draws on rap music and other aspects of black culture.

Calling Myers "a unique voice," Rudine Sims Bishop wrote in Presenting Walter Dean Myers that the author is significant "because he creates books that appeal to young adults from many cultural groups. They appeal because Myers knows and cares about the things that concern his readers and because he creates characters … readers are happy to spend time with." R.D. Lane noted in the African American Review that the author "celebrates children by weaving narratives of the black juvenile experience in ways that reverse the effects of mediated messages of the black experience in public culture…. Myers's stratagem is revolutionary: the intrinsic value to black youth of his lessons stands priceless, timeless, and class-transcendent." In her entry in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Carmen Subryan concluded that "Myers's books demonstrate that writers can not only challenge the minds of black youths but also emphasize the black experience in a nondidactic way that benefits all readers."

Born Walter Milton Myers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Myers lost his mother, Mary Green Myers, at age two, during the birth of his younger sister Imogene. Since his father, George Ambrose Myers, was struggling economically, Walter and two of his sisters were informally adopted by family friends Florence and Herbert Dean; Myers has written about surrogate parenting in several of his stories, including Won't Know Till I Get There and Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid.

The Dean family moved to Harlem when Myers was about three years old. He recalled in Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS), "I loved Harlem. I lived in an exciting corner of the renowned Black capital and in an exciting era. The people I met there, the things I did, have left a permanent impression on me." When he was four years old Myers was taught to read by his foster mother; his foster father sat the boy on his knee and told him "endless stories." As the author later wrote in Children's Books and Their Creators, "Somewhere along the line I discovered that books could be part of a child's world, and by the time I was nine I found myself spending long hours reading in my room. The books began to shape new bouts of imagination."

When not reading, Myers enjoyed playing sports, especially stickball, baseball, and basketball, and sports provide the background for young-adult novels such as Hoops, The Outside Shot, and Slam! At school, he enjoyed classwork but found that a speech impediment caused him some difficulty. His fellow classmates would laugh at him and, as a result, he would fight back; consequently, he was often suspended from school. When Myers was in fifth grade, as he recalled in SAAS, "a marvelous thing happened." Made to sit at the back of the class for fighting, he was reading a comic book during a math lesson when the teacher, Mrs. Conway, caught him. Mrs. Conway, who was known for her meanness, surprised Walter by saying that if he was going to read, he might as well read something decent and brought him a selection of children's books; Myers remembered Asbjornsen and Moe's East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a collection of Norwegian folktales, as a turning point in his appreciation of literature. Mrs. Conway also required her students to read aloud in class. In order to avoid some of the words that he had trouble speaking, she suggested that Walter write something for himself to read.

After junior high, Myers attended Stuyvesant High School, a school for boys that stressed academic achievement. Although he struggled somewhat due to the school's focus on science, he met another influential teacher, Bonnie Liebow, who interviewed each of her students and made up individualized reading lists for them. Myers's list included works by such European authors as Emile Zola and Thomas Mann. Liebow also told Myers that he was a gifted writer, inspiring him to consider writing as a career.

Despite this encouragement, as a teen Myers realized that writing "had no practical value for a Black child," as he recalled. "These minor victories did not bolster my ego. Instead, they convinced me that even though I was bright, even though I might have some talent, I was still defined by factors other than my ability." In addition, Myers was depressed by the fact that he would not be able to attend college due to his family's financial status. Consequently, he wrote in SAAS, he began "writing poems about death, despair, and doom" and began "having doubts about everything in my life."

When not writing or working odd jobs, Myers hung out in the streets: "I was steeped in the mystique of the semi-hoodlum," he recalled in SAAS. He acquired a sti- letto and acted as a drug courier; he also became a target for one of the local gangs after intervening in a fight between three gang members and a new boy in the neighborhood. Finally, influenced by the war poems of British writer Rupert Brooke, Myers joined the army at age seventeen in order to, as he wrote in SAAS, "hie myself off to some far-off battlefield and get killed. There, where I fell, would be a little piece of Harlem."

In Bad Boy: A Memoir, Myers recounts his childhood, then takes the reader through his adolescence—during which he often skipped school and sometimes made deliveries for drug dealers—and to his beginnings as a writer. Rochman said of this work that "the most beautiful writing is about Mama: how she taught him to read, sharing True Romance magazines." "The author's growing awareness of racism and of his own identity as a black man make up one of the most interesting threads" of Bad Boy, wrote Miranda Doyle in School Library Journal. Myers' "voice and heart are consistently heard and felt throughout," concluded a Horn Book contributor.

Myers's army experience was less than the glorious adventure promised by the poetry he had read; he went to radio-repair school and spent most of his time playing basketball. "I also learned several efficient ways of killing human beings," he later recalled. In addition, as he told Bishop in Presenting Walter Dean Myers, "I learned something about dying. I learned a lot about facilitating the process, of making it abstract." During his military service, Myer also developed the strong antiwar attitude that would later become part of his young-adult novel Fallen Angels, the story of a young black soldier in Vietnam.

After three years in the U.S. Army, Myers returned home to his parents, who had by now moved to Morristown, New Jersey. Then he returned to Harlem, where he took an apartment and began to work at becoming a professional writer. In what he recalled as his "starving artist period," Myers wrote poetry and read books about the Bohemian life by such authors as George Orwell and André Gide; he also lived on two dollars a week from unemployment compensation and lost fifty pounds. While working briefly for the U.S. Post Office, he married Joyce, a woman he later called "wonderful, warm, beautiful, religious, caring."

Even after becoming a father—two of his three children, Karen and Michael, are from his first marriage—Myers continued to try to live a romantic lifestyle. While working odd jobs in a factory and an office, he played bongos with a group of jazz musicians, some of whom were into heroin and cocaine, and wrote jazz-based poetry, some of which was published in Canada. He also began to be published in African-American magazines such as the Negro Digest and the Liberator as well as in men's magazines such as Argosy and Cavalier. During this time, his first marriage collapsed.

In 1961, Myers enrolled in a writing class with author Lajos Egri, who told him that he had a special talent. A few years later, he attended City College of the City University of New York as a night student, but dropped out. At a writer's workshop at Columbia University led by novelist John Oliver Killens, he was recommended for a new editorial position at the publishing house Bobbs-Merrill and became an acquisitions editor. In 1968, he won first prize in a contest for black writers sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children and a year later his picture-book text was published by Parents' Magazine Press as Where Does the Day Go?

Where Does the Day Go? features Steven, a small black boy whose father takes him and a group of children of various races for an evening walk in the park. When Steven wonders where the day goes, his friends each provide imaginative opinions of their own. Finally, Steven's dad explains that day and night are different, just like people, and that the times of day are caused by the rotation of the Earth. "Integration, involvement, and togetherness are all deftly handled," noted Mary Eble in School Library Journal, while Zena Sutherland, Dianne L. Monson, and May Hill Arbuthnot claimed in Children and Books that the story has "other strong values in addition to its exploration of the mystery of night and day." The critics noted that Where Does the Day Go? "explains natural phenomena accurately, and it presents an exemplary father."

After the publication of his first book, Myers changed his name from Walter Milton Myers to "one that would honor my foster parents, Walter Dean Myers." He also remarried, and he and his wife Connie had a son, Christopher, now an artist who has illustrated several of his father's works. In 1972, Myers published The Dragon Takes a Wife, a picture book that some considered controversial. The story features Harry, a lonely dragon who cannot fight, and Mabel May, the African-American fairy who helps him. In order to acquire a wife, Harry must defeat a knight in battle. When Mabel May turns into a dragon to show Harry how to fight, Harry falls in love with her, defeats the knight, and wins her hand, not to mention a good job at the post office.

Other picture books by Myers include several in which he teams up with son Christopher Myers. In Jazz, Myers "creates a scintillating paean to jazz," claimed a Publishers Weekly critic. Compared to other authors who struggle to capture the spirit of the music form in text, Booklist reviewer Bill Ott found Jazz "an absolutely airtight melding of words and pictures that is perfectly accessible to a younger audience." Through a series of poems accompanied by brightly colored illustrations, the pair chronicles the evolution of the music form, from fast-paced New Orleans jazz to bebop, so clearly "readers will find music coming irresistibly into their heads," suggested Roger Sutton in Horn Book.

The Blues of Flats Brown is a children's picture book about a dog that flees to Memphis and has a hit record. The pup's success angers former owner A.J. Grubbs, who follows him on to New York. "Myers's shaggy fantasy has the slow-and-easy pacing of a lazy Southern afternoon," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Myers beautifully conveys the blues' unique roots and the way the music bestows comfort, catharsis, and healing," said Shelle Rosenfeld in Booklist.

In 1975, Myers published his first novel for young adults, Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff. Set in a Harlem neighborhood much like the one in which its author grew up, the story describes a group of young teens who take a positive approach to living in a difficult environment. The story is narrated by eighteen-year-old Stuff, who recalls the year that he was thirteen and formed a sort of anti-gang, the Good People, with his best friends Fast Sam and Cool Clyde plus five other boys and girls from the neighborhood. The Good People have several hilarious adventures, including one where Sam and Clyde—who is dressed as a girl—win a dance contest. However, they also deal with such problems as mistaken arrest and the deaths of one of their fathers and a friend who has turned to drugs. The children survive, both through their inner strength and the fellowship of their friends, who are dependable and respectful of one another. Writing in English Journal, Alleen Pace Nilsen called Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff "a rich, warm story about black kids in which Myers makes the reader feel so close to the characters that ethnic group identification is secondary." In Horn Book, Paul Heins noted that "the humorous and ironic elements of the plot give the book the flavor of a Harlem Tom Sawyer or Penrod."

In 1977, after leaving Bobbs-Merrill, Myers became a full-time writer. It Ain't All for Nothin', a young-adult novel published the next year, is considered the first of his more serious, thought-provoking works. The novel features twelve-year-old Tippy, a motherless Harlem boy who has been living with his loving, principled grandmother since he was a baby. When she goes into a nursing home, Tippy moves in with his father Lonnie, an ex-con who makes his living by stealing and who beats his son viciously. Lonely and afraid, Tippy begins drinking whiskey. When Lonnie and his pals rob a store, he coerces Tippy into participating. Bubba, a member of the group, is shot during the heist; in order to save Bubba and save himself, Tippy calls the police and turns in his father. At the end of the novel, Tippy goes to live with Mr. Roland, a kind man who has befriended him.

It Ain't All for Nothin' was praised by Steven Matthews in School Library Journal as "a first-rate read," and by a critic in Kirkus Reviews as "like Tippy—a winner." Although questioning "how many children are really going to ‘drop a dime’ on their father?," Ashley Jane Pennington concluded in her review for Interracial Books for Children Bulletin that It Ain't All for Nothin' "is a devastating book which needed to be written." Motown and Didi: A Love Story, a highly praised sequel, features two of the peripheral characters from It Ain't All for Nothin' and includes a strong anti-drug message as well as the theme that love can conquer all. Shooter focuses on the events leading up to and following a school shooting. Ironically, many reviewers compared the book to the real-life and well-publicized Columbine school tragedy, which occurred months prior to

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Shooter's publication. The novel is told through a unique narrative approach: the book consists of police reports, news articles, a journal, and other "real-life" documentation of the event. For its dark subject matter and its unique narration, Shooter has often been compared with Monster. Of Shooter, Lauren Adams wrote in Horn Book that Myers's "exacting look at the many possible players and causes in the events makes for a compelling story." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the author for his handling of a controversial subject in which "no one is completely innocent and no one is entirely to blame." The reviewer concluded, "Readers will find themselves racing through the pages, then turning back to pore over the details once more."

Although Myers turns to a lighter subject in Game, he still explores serious themes through the first-person perspective of Drew, a seventeen year old from Harlem who hopes to earn a college basketball scholarship and play at the professional level. Like several of the author's earlier novels, Game features an African-American male from the inner city who reflects on the urban environment around him and questions his place in it. In addition to narrating Drew's struggle to chart his future, Myers includes "tautly choreographed game sequences that … bristle with the electricity of the sport," noted a New York Times Book Review critic. Predicting the book will appeal to readers who enjoyed Monster and Slam, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Game offers readers "a sensitive portrait of a likable young man, his family, city and dreams."

The middle-grade novels Scorpions and Fallen Angels are considered among Myers' best. In Scorpions twelve-year-old Jamal lives in Harlem with his mother and younger sister. He is approached to take the place of his older brother Randy, who is in jail for killing a man, as the leader of his gang, the Scorpions. At first, Jamal refuses; however, he is fascinated with the gun that Randy's friend Mack gives him and is searching for a way to help his family raise the money for Randy's appeal. Jamal and his best friend Tito, a sensitive Puerto Rican boy, join the Scorpions, who are dealing cocaine. During a confrontation, Jamal is defended by Tito, who uses the gun Mack had given Jamal to kill to protect his friend. Marcus Crouch wrote in Junior Bookshelf that Myers "writes with great power, capturing the cadences of black New York, and keeps a firm hold on his narrative and his emotions. He is a fine story-teller as well as a social critic and, I suspect, a moralist." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books contributor Roger Sutton noted that Myers's "compassion for Tito and Jamal is deep; perhaps the book's seminal achievement is the way it makes us realize how young, in Harlem and elsewhere, twelve years old really is."

Fallen Angels describes the horrors of the Vietnam War from the perspective of Richie Perry, a seventeen-year-old African American who has joined the U.S. Army as a way to make life easier for his mother and younger brother at home in Harlem. During the course of a year, Richie experiences fear and terror as he fights in the war; he burns the bodies of American soldiers because they cannot be carried and—with a rifle at his head—shoots a North Vietnamese soldier in the face; finally, after being wounded twice, he is sent home. Underscoring the novel, which includes rough language and gallows humor, is a strong antiwar message; Myers also addresses such issues as racial discrimination within the service and the conditions faced by the Vietnamese people. Calling Myers "a writer of skill, maturity, and judgment," Ethel L. Heins maintained in Horn Book that, "With its intensity and vividness in depicting a young soldier amid the chaos and the carnage of war, the novel recalls Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage." W. Keith McCoy, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, commented that "Everything about this book rings true," while Mary Veeder, writing in Chicago's Tribune Books, noted that Fallen Angels "may be the best novel for young adults I've read this year."

Myers wrote Fallen Angels as a tribute to his brother Sonny, who was killed on his first day as a soldier in Vietnam; he also based much of the book on his own experience in the U.S. Army. In discussing both Fallen Angels and Scorpions with Kimberly Olson Fakih in Publishers Weekly, Myers called these books "a departure" and "very serious, probing work." He concluded: "Not that the others didn't address serious issues, too, but the new ones were more difficult to write." Also inspired by the war, A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam is a well-received biography of Colonel Fred V. Cherry, an African-American Air Force pilot who was held as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for nearly eight years.

In Sunrise over Fallujah, Myers returns to the family depicted in his award-winning Fallen Angels. While the first book spoke about the horrors of the Vietnam War, Sunrise over Fallujah focuses on the Second Gulf War in Iraq. Enlisting after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Robin, the nephew of Richie from Fallen Angels, narrates his experiences in the army through a series of letters he sends home during his time in Iraq. Initially assigned to a Civil Affairs unit working to gain the cooperation of Iraqi citizens, Robin struggles to comprehend the collateral bloodshed occurring as the

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

conflict progresses as well as deal with the constant threat to his life from Iraqis fighting against the presence of American troops in their country. By experiencing first hand the horrors of war similar to those his uncle endured, the young soldier finally understands why Uncle Richie kept silent about his experiences in the jungles of Southeast Asia a generation earlier. Writing in School Library Journal, Diane P. Tuccillo thought the author avoids editorializing about the war and instead offers an "expert portrayal of a soldier's feelings and perspectives … allow[ing] the circumstances to speak for themselves." Several reviewers also commended Myers for his efforts to write about the war, as few novels for teens exist on the subject. In light of this lack of material, a Kirkus Reviews writer deemed Sunrise over Fallujah "an important volume, covering much ground and offering much insight," while a Publishers Weekly critic suggested that Myers has written "the novel that will allow American teens to grapple intelligently and thoughtfully with the war in Iraq."

In addition to his fiction, Myers has written several highly praised informational books for children and young people in which he characteristically outlines the fight for freedom by people of color; he has also written biographies of such figures as Toussaint L'Ouverture, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. In Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom Myers recounts the history of black Americans through both overviews and profiles of individuals. "What happens," wrote a critic in Kirkus Reviews, "when a gifted novelist chooses to write the story of his people? In this case, the result is engrossing history with a strong unifying theme, the narrative enriched with accounts of outstanding lives." Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post Book World, added that Myers "writes with the vividness of a novelist, the balance of a historian, and the passion of an advocate. He tells a familiar story and shocks us with it all over again." Writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, Kellie Flynn noted that Now Is Your Time! "is alive and vital—with breathing biographical sketches and historic interpretations like rabbit punches."

With Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom Myers tells the dramatic story of the captive Africans who mutinied against their captors on the slave ship Amistad in the late 1830s. The book recounts the hellish journey on the ship and the forced landing in Connecticut as well as the landmark trial and the struggle of the West Africans to return home. Writing in Booklist, Hazel Rochman stated that "the narrative is exciting, not only the account of the uprising but also the tension of the court arguments about whether the captives were property and what their rights were in a country that banned the slave trade but allowed slavery." Gerry Larson added in a review for School Library Journal that, "with characteristic scholarship, clarity, insight, and compassion, Myers presents readers with the facts and the moral and historical significance of the Amistad episode."

A longtime collector of historical photographs and documents depicting the lives and culture of African Americans, Myers has used his own art to illustrate several of his informational books. The photos and letters from the author's collection have also inspired several of his works, including volumes of original poetry on black children and mothers and the biography At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England. Published in 1999, this work reconstructs the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a child of royal African descent who became a goddaughter of Queen Victoria as well as a British celebrity. Saved from a sacrificial rite in Dahomey by English sea captain Frederick E. Forbes, orphaned Sarah—named after her rescuer and his ship—was brought to England as a gift for Queen Victoria from the Dahomian king who slaughtered her family. Victoria provided the means for Sarah—nicknamed Sally—to be educated as a young woman of privilege in a missionary school in Sierra Leone. Sally, who often returned to England to visit her benefactor, eventually married a West African businessman and named her first-born child Victoria. Eventually returning with her husband to Africa, she taught in missionary schools until she died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-six.

Working from a packet of letters he discovered in a London bookstore, Myers tells Sally's story, which he embellishes with quotes from Queen Victoria's diary, newspapers, and other memoirs of the time. As a critic in Kirkus Reviews commented, "This vividly researched biography will enthrall readers, and ranks among Myers's best writing." Calling At Her Majesty's Request a "fascinating biography" and a "moving and very humane portrait of a princess," a reviewer in Publishers Weekly concluded that Myers "portrays a young woman who never truly belongs."

Myers's second book about Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, focuses on the stages of Malcolm's life and contains Leonard Jenkins's artwork, "full-color montage illustrations, in acrylic, pastel, and spray paint … like mural art, with larger-than-life individual portraits set against the crowded streets and the swirl of politics," wrote Booklist contributor Rochman, who noted that nearly every page contains a quote from speeches or writings. Myers chronicles Malcolm's childhood, his time in the Charlestown State Prison, his conversion to Islam, leadership of the Black Muslims until his break with Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad, and his pilgrimage to Mecca prior to his assassination in 1965.

In The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, Myers documents the life of the boxer born Cassius Clay, moving from Ali's childhood in segregated St. Louis to his Olympic win in 1960 and his success as a world-class athlete. Myers then relates the athlete's commitment as a Black Muslim and his political activism as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Myers also reports on Ali's major fights against Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. Horn Book contributor Jack Forman felt the book "is more a portrait of Ali's character and cultural impact than a narrative of his life." "This is finally a story about a black man of tremendous cour- age," wrote Bill Ott in Booklist, "the kind of universal story that needs a writer as talented as Myers to retell it for every generation." Khafre K. Abif added in Black Issues Book Review that in The Greatest Myers "inspires a new generation of fans by exposing the hazards Ali faced in boxing, the rise of a champion, and now his battle against Parkinson's disease."

Myers's nonfiction title USS Constellation relates the entire story of the famous ship, from construction to war victories to encounters with slave ships to crew training. The book is complemented by first-person accounts, along with illustrations and charts. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, praised USS Constellation as a "well-researched" volume, calling it a "unique addition to American history collections." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised Myers book as a "meticulously researched, fast-flowing chronicle," and applauded USS Constellation for offering "a larger view of the shaping of America." Betty Carter, writing in Horn Book, noted that the first-person accounts "lend authenticity while personalizing events."

In Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, Myers presents over fifty poems that explore the streets of Harlem through the experiences of dozens of characters. He "treats readers to a tour of Harlem's past and present," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor, by covering a wide variety of settings, including a church, hair salons, and restaurants. Accompanying the poems are period photographs of Harlem, offering readers a visual context to the poems, which vary in style from free verse to conversational. In Booklist Carolyn Phelan dubbed Here in Harlem "a colorful and warmly personal portrayal of Harlem," before going on to predict, "this unusual book will be long remembered."

"Children and adults," wrote Myers in SAAS, "must have role models with which they can identify"; therefore in his writing he has attempted to "deliver images upon which [they] could build and expand their own worlds." In an interview with Roger Sutton for School Library Journal, Myers noted that writing about the African-American experience is fraught with complexity and difficulties. "Very often people want more from books than a story," the author explained; "they want books to represent them well. This is where I get the flak."

Commenting on the question of writing primarily for a black audience, Myers stated: "as a black person you are always representing the race…. So what you have to do is try to write it as well as you can and hope that if you write the story well enough, people won't be offended." Myers sees an element of racism in the notion that black authors must write about "black subjects" for a primarily black audience. Likewise, he views the controversy surrounding the question of whether whites should write about the black experience as "a false issue." "I think basically you need to write what you believe in."

Writing in SAAS, Myers stated that he feels the need to show young blacks "the possibilities that exist for them that were never revealed to me as a youngster; possibilities that did not even exist for me then." He continued: "As a Black writer I want to talk about my people…. I want to tell Black children about their humanity and about their history and how to grease their legs so the ash won't show and how to braid their hair so it's easy to comb on frosty winter mornings. The books come. They pour from me at a great rate…. There is always one more story to tell, one more person whose life needs to be held up to the sun."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Bishop, Rudine Sims, Presenting Walter Dean Myers, Twayne, 1991.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 33: Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1984, pp. 199-202.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986, pp. 143-156.

PERIODICALS

African American Review, spring, 1988, R.H. Lane, "Keepin It Real: Walter Dean Myers and the Promise of African-American Children's Literature," p. 125.

Black Issues Book Review, May, 2001, Khafre K. Abif, review of The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, p. 80.

Booklist, February 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, "Some Versions of Amistad," p. 1003; February 15, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, p. 1103; March 1, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Blues of Flats Brown, p. 1242; January 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of The Greatest, p. 952; May 1, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Bad Boy: A Memoir, p. 1673; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of USS Constellation, p. 1841; November 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, p. 480; February 1, 2006, Jennifer Hubert, review of The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage, p. 62; September 1, 2006, Bill Ott, review of Jazz, p. 127; October 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Street Love, p. 52; February 1, 2007, Michael Cart, review of Harlem Summer, p. 56; July 1, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of What They Found: Love on 145th Street, p. 61; February 1, 2008, Gillian Engberg, review of Game, p. 51; February 15, 2008, Jennifer Mattson, review of Sunrise over Fallujah, p. 76.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 1988, review of Scorpions, p. 235.

English Journal, March, 1976, Alleen Pace Nilsen, "Love and the Teenage Reader," pp. 90-92.

Horn Book, August, 1975, Ethel L. Heins, review of Fallen Angels, pp. 503-504; July-August, 1988, Paul Heins, review of Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, pp. 388-389; May, 2000, review of Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, p. 336; January, 2000, Jack Forman, review of The Greatest, p. 115; July, 2001, review of Bad Boy, p. 473; May-June, 2004, Lauren Adams, review of Shooter, p. 335; July-August, 2004, Betty Carter, review of USS Constellation, p. 469; November-December, 2006, Roger Sutton, review of Jazz, p. 735, and Claire E. Gross, review of Street Love, p. 722; May-June, 2007, Roger Sutton, review of Harlem Summer, p. 286; May-June, 2008, Betty Carter, review of Sunrise over Fallujah, p. 324.

Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Volume 10, number 4, 1979, Ashley Jane Pennington, review of It Ain't All for Nothin', p. 18.

Junior Bookshelf, August, 1990, Marcus Crouch, review of Scorpions, pp. 190-191.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1972, review of The Dragon Takes a Wife, p. 256; October 15, 1978, review of It Ain't All for Nothin', p. 1143; October 1, 1991, review of Now Is Your Time!, p. 1537; December 15, 1998, review of At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, p. 1802; November 15, 2005, review of The Harlem Hellfighters, p. 1235; December 15, 2007, review of Game; April 1, 2008, review of Sunrise over Fallujah.

Kliatt, July, 2005, KaaVonia Hinton, review of Autobiography of My Dead Brother, p. 14; March, 2007, Paula Rohrlick, review of Harlem Summer, p. 17; January, 2008, Paula Rohrlick, review of Game, p. 11; May, 2008, Paula Rohrlick, review of Sunrise over Fallujah, p. 15.

New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1972, Nancy Griffin, review of The Dragon Takes a Wife, p. 8; October 21, 2001, Kermit Frazier, review of Bad Boy, p. 31; May 11, 2008, review of Game and Sunrise over Fallujah, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 1988, "Walter Dean Myers," p. 117; February 8, 1999, review of At Her Majesty's Request, p. 215; January 24, 2000, review of The Blues of Flats Brown, p. 311; March 22, 2004, review of Shooter, p. 87; June 28, 2004, review of USS Constellation, p. 52; November 15, 2004, review of Here in Harlem, p. 61; September 19, 2005, review of Autobiography of My Dead Brother, p. 68; August 7, 2006, review of Jazz, p. 57; March 26, 2007, review of Harlem Summer, p. 94; April 21, 2008, review of Sunrise over Fallujah, p. 59.

School Librarian, August, 1990, Allison Hurst, review of Fallen Angels, pp. 118-119.

School Library Journal, April 15, 1970, Mary Eble, review of Where Does the Day Go?, p. 111; October, 1978, Steven Matthews, review of It Aint' All for Nothin', p. 158; May, 1998, Gerry Larson, review of Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom, p. 158; March, 2000, Karen James, review of The Blues of Flats Brown, p. 210; May, 2001, Miranda Doyle, review of Bad Boy, p. 169; December, 2001, Kathleen Baxter, review of The Greatest, p. 39; April, 2005, Nina Lindsay, review of Here in Harlem, p. 57; August, 2005, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Autobiography of My Dead Brother, p. 132; March, 2007, Hillias J. Martin, review of Harlem Summer, p. 216; August, 2007, Chris Shoemaker, review of What They Found: Love on 145th Street, p. 122; April, 2008, Diane P. Tuccillo, review of Sunrise over Fallujah, p. 146; February, 2008, Richard Luzer, review of Game, p. 122.

Teaching and Learning Literature, September-October, 1998, Ellen A. Greever, "Making Connections in the Life and Works of Walter Dean Myers," pp. 42-54.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), November 13, 1988, Mary Veeder, "Some Versions of Fallen Angels," p. 6.

USA Today, April 24, 2008, Bob Minzesheimer, "The Somber Realities of War Cross Generations," interview with Myers, p. 7D.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1988, W. Keith McCoy, review of Fallen Angels, p. 133; February, 1992, Kellie Flynn, review of Now Is Your Time!, p. 398.

Washington Post Book World, March 8, 1992, Michael Dirda, review of Now Is Your Time!, p. 11.

Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1993, Frances Bradburn, review of The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, p. 88.

ONLINE

Walter Dean Myers Home Page,http://www.walterdeanmyers.net (October 15, 2008).

National Public Radio Web site,http://www.npr.org/ (August 19, 2008), Juan Williams, "Walter Dean Myers: A ‘Bad Boy’ Makes Good."

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Myers, Walter Dean 1937-

MYERS, Walter Dean 1937-

(Walter M. Myers)

Personal

Born Walter Milton Myers, August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, WV; son of George Ambrose and Mary (Green) Myers; raised from age three by Herbert Julius (a shipping clerk) and Florence (a factory worker) Dean; married (marriage dissolved); married Constance Brendel, June 19, 1973; children: (first marriage) Karen, Michael Dean; (second marriage) Christopher. Education: Attended City College of the City University of New York; Empire State College, B.A., 1984.


Addresses

Home 2543 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, NJ 07304.


Career

New York State Department of Labor, New York, NY, employment supervisor, 1966-70; Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc. (publisher), New York, NY, senior trade books editor, 1970-77; full-time writer, beginning 1977. Teacher of creative writing and black history on a part-time basis in New York, NY, 1974-75; worked variously as a post-office clerk, inter-office messenger, and a interviewer at a factory. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954-57.


Member

PEN, Harlem Writers Guild.


Awards, Honors

Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1968, for Where Does the Day Go?; Children's Book of the Year, Child Study Association of America (CSAA), 1972, for The Dancers; Notable Book designation, American Library Association (ALA), 1975, and Woodward Park School Annual Book Award, 1976, both for Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff; Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1978, for It Ain't All for Nothin', and 1979, for The Young Landlords; Coretta Scott King Award, 1980, for The Young Landlords; Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1981, and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council for Social Studies/Children's Book Council, 1982, both for The Legend of Tarik; runner-up, Edgar Allan Poe Award, and Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1982, both for Hoops; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1982, for Won't Know till I Get There, 1984, for The Outside Shot, and 1988, for Fallen Angels; New Jersey Institute of Technology Authors Award, 1983, for Tales of a Dead King; Coretta Scott King Award, 1985, for Motown and Didi; Children's Book of the Year, CSAA, 1987, for Adventure in Granada; Parents' Choice Award, 1987, for Crystal; New Jersey Institute of Technology Authors Award and Best Books for Young Adults designation, ALA, 1988, Coretta Scott King Award, 1989, and Children's Book Award, South Carolina Association of School Librarians, 1991, all for Fallen Angels; Notable Book and Best Books for Young Adults designations, ALA, both 1988, both for Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid; Notable Book designation, ALA, 1988, and Newbery Medal Honor Book designation, ALA, 1989, both for Scorpions; Parents' Choice Award, 1990, for The Mouse Rap; Golden Kite Award Honor Book, and Jane Addams Award Honor Book, both 1991, and Coretta Scott King Award, and Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book, both 1992, all for Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom; Parents' Choice Award, 1992, for The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book, 1992, and Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book, and Newbery Medal Honor Book, both 1993, all for Somewhere in the Darkness; Jeremiah Ludington Award, Educational Paperback Association, 1993, for "18 Pine St." series; CRAB-berry Award, 1993, for Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary; Margaret A. Edwards Award, ALA/School Library Journal, 1994, for contributions to young adult literature; Coretta Scott King Award, 1997, for Slam!; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book designation, 1997, for Harlem: A Poem; several child-selected awards.

Writings

FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, Viking (New York, NY), 1975.

Brainstorm, photographs by Chuck Freedman, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1977.

Mojo and the Russians, Viking (New York, NY), 1977.

Victory for Jamie, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1977.

It Ain't All for Nothin', Viking (New York, NY), 1978.

The Young Landlords, Viking (New York, NY), 1979.

The Golden Serpent, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, Viking (New York, NY), 1980.

Hoops, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.

The Legend of Tarik, Viking (New York, NY), 1981.

Won't Know till I Get There, Viking (New York, NY), 1982.

The Nicholas Factor, Viking (New York, NY), 1983.

Tales of a Dead King, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.

Motown and Didi: A Love Story, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.

The Outside Shot, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

Sweet Illusions, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1986.

Crystal, Viking (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, Harper-Trophy (New York, NY), 2001.

Scorpions, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid, illustrated by Rodney Pate, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1988.

Fallen Angels, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.

The Mouse Rap, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1990.

Somewhere in the Darkness, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

Mop, Moondance, and the Nagasaki Knights, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.

The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

The Glory Field, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Darnell Rock Reporting, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.

Shadow of the Red Moon, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

Sniffy Blue, Ace Crime Detective: The Case of the Missing Ruby and Other Stories, illustrated by David J. A. Sims, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

Slam!, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy, Atheneum, 1999.

The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A World War II Soldier, Normandy, France, 1944, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Monster, illustrated by Christopher Myers, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

The Blues of Flats Brown, illustrated by Nina Laden, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2000.

145th Street: Short Stories, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

The Journal of Biddy Owens and the Negro Leagues, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Three Swords for Granada, illustrated by John Speirs, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2002.

Handbook for Boys: A Novel, illustrated by Matthew Bandsuch, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

A Time to Love: Stories from the Old Testament, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Beast, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Dream Bearer, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Shooter, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2004.

Southern Fried, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.


Creator and editor of "18 Pine Street" series of young adult novels, Bantam, beginning 1992. Work represented in anthologies, including What We Must SEE: Young Black Storytellers, Dodd, 1971, and We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans.


"ARROW" SERIES

Adventure in Granada, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

The Hidden Shrine, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.

Duel in the Desert, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

Ambush in the Amazon, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.


JUVENILE NONFICTION

The World of Work: A Guide to Choosing a Career, Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.

Social Welfare, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1976.

Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, illustrated by Frederick Porter, Raintree (Austin, TX), 1992.

Young Martin's Promise (picture book), illustrated by Barbara Higgins Bond, Raintree (Austin, TX), 1992.

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

One More River to Cross: An African-American Photograph Album, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1995.

Turning Points: When Everything Changes, Troll Communications (Matwah, NJ), 1996.

Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Fight for Haiti's Freedom, illustrated by Jacob Lawrence, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.

At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Bad Boy: A Memoir, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

USS Constellation: Pride of the American Navy, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.

I've Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Antarctica: Journeys to the South Pole, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.


PICTURE BOOKS

(Under name Walter M. Myers) Where Does the Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty, Parents Magazine Press, 1969.

The Dragon Takes a Wife, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.

The Dancers, illustrated by Anne Rockwell, Parents Magazine Press, 1972.

Fly, Jimmy, Fly!, illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Putnam (New York, NY), 1974.

The Black Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush, Viking (New York, NY), 1980.

Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird, illustrated by Leslie Morrill, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

The Story of the Three Kingdoms, illustrated by Ashley Bryan, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World, illustrated by Synthia Saint James, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.

Harlem: A Poem, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.


POETRY

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Remember Us Well: An Album of Pictures and Verse, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Glorious Angels: A Celebration of Children, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Angel to Angel: A Mother's Gift of Love, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.

Blues Journey, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2004.

OTHER

Contributor of articles and fiction to books and to periodicals, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Argosy, Black Creation, Black World, Boy's Life, Ebony, Jr.!, Espionage, Essence, McCall's, National Enquirer, Negro Digest, and Scholastic; also contributor of poetry to university reviews and quarterlies.

Adaptations

The Young Landlords was made into a film by Topol Productions. Mojo and the Russians was made into a videorecording by Children's Television International, Great Plains National Instructional Television Library, 1980. Demco Media released videos of Fallen Angels and Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid in 1988, Scorpions in 1990, and The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner in 1996. Darnell Rock Reporting was released on video in 1996. Harlem: A Poem was released as a combination book and audio version in 1997. Scorpions was adapted as a sound recording in 1998.

Sidelights

Called "one of today's most important authors of young adult literature" by Rudine Sims Bishop in Presenting Walter Dean Myers and "a giant among children's and young adult authors" by Frances Bradburn in the Wilson Library Bulletin, Walter Dean Myers is regarded as one of the best contemporary American writers for children and teens. An author of African-American descent, he is credited with helping to redefine the image of blacks in juvenile literature.

A number of African-American writers emerged in the 1960s and 1970s who sought to provide more realistic storylines and more well-rounded portrayals of black characters than those by previous authors. As a member of this group, which also includes Alice Childress, Lucille Clifton, Eloise Greenfield, Virginia Hamilton, and Sharon Bell Mathis, Myers distinguished himself by bringing both humor and poignancy to his work as well by creating books with special appeal to boys; in addition, he is considered the only prominent male writer of the group to have consistently published books of quality. A versatile and prolific author, Myers has written realistic and historical fiction, mysteries, adventure stories, fantasies, nonfiction, poetry, and picture books for a diverse audience of young people. Although he is praised for his contributions to several genres, he is perhaps best known as the writer of books for readers in junior high and high school that range from farcical, lighthearted stories for younger teens to powerful, moving novels for older adolescents. Myers stresses the more positive aspects of black urban life in his works; often setting his stories in his boyhood home of Harlem, he is acknowledged for depicting the strength and dignity of his characters without downplaying the harsh realities of their lives.

Although he features both young men and women as protagonists, Myers is noted for his focus on young black males. His themes often include the relationship between fathers and sons as well as the search for identity and self-worth in an environment of poverty, drugs, gangs, and racism. Although his characters confront difficult issues, Myers stresses survival, pride, and hope in his works, which are filled with love and laughter and a strong sense of possibility for the future of their protagonists. Lauded for his understanding of the young, Myers is acclaimed as the creator of believable, sympathetic adolescent characters; he is also praised for creating realistic dialogue, some of which draws on rap music and other aspects of black culture.Calling Myers "a unique voice," Rudine Sims Bishop said that Myers has become "an important writer because he creates books that appeal to young adults from many cultural groups. They appeal because Myers knows and cares about the things that concern his readers and because he creates characters that readers are happy to spend time with." R. D. Lane noted in the African American Review that the author "celebrates children by weaving narratives of the black juvenile experience in ways that reverse the effects of mediated messages of the black experience in public culture. . . . Myers's stratagem is revolutionary: the intrinsic value to black youth of his lessons stands priceless, timeless, and class-transcendent." In her entry in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Carmen Subryan concluded, "Myers's books demonstrate that writers can not only challenge the minds of black youths but also emphasize the black experience in a nondidactic way that benefits all readers."

Born Walter Milton Myers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Myers lost his mother, Mary Green Myers, at age two, during the birth of his younger sister Imogene. Since his father, George Ambrose Myers, was struggling economically, Walter and two of his sisters were informally adopted by family friends Florence and Herbert Dean; Myers has written about surrogate parenting in several of his stories, including Won't Know Till I Get There and Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid.


The Deans moved their family to Harlem when Myers was about three years old. He recalled in Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS), "I loved Harlem. I lived in an exciting corner of the renowned Black capital and in an exciting era. The people I met there, the things I did, have left a permanent impression on me." When he was four years old Myers was taught to read by his foster mother; his foster father sat the boy on his knee and told him what Myers called "endless stories" in SAAS. The author wrote in Children's Books and Their Creators, "Somewhere along the line I discovered that books could be part of a child's world, and by the time I was nine I found myself spending long hours reading in my room. The books began to shape new bouts of imagination. Now I was one of 'The Three Musketeers' (always the one in the middle), or participating in the adventures of Jo's boys. John R. Tunis brought me back to sports, and I remember throwing a pink ball against the wall for hours as I struggled through baseball games that existed only in the rich arena of invention."

When not reading, Myers enjoyed playing sports, especially stickball, baseball, and basketball; baseball provides the background for three of the author's most popular young-adult novels: Hoops, The Outside Shot, and Slam! At school, Myers enjoyed classwork but found that a speech impediment caused him some difficulty. His fellow classmates would laugh at him and, as a result, he would fight back; consequently, he was often suspended from school. When Myers was in fifth grade, as he recalled in SAAS, "a marvelous thing happened." Made to sit at the back of the class for fighting, he was reading a comic book during a math lesson when the teacher, Mrs. Conway, caught him. Mrs. Conway, who was known for her meanness, surprised Walter by saying that if he was going to read, he might as well read something decent and brought him a selection of children's books; Myers remembered Asbjornsen and Moe's East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a collection of Norwegian folktales, as a turning point in his appreciation of literature. Mrs. Conway also required her students to read aloud in class. In order to avoid some of the words that he had trouble speaking, she suggested that Walter write something for himself to read. The poems that he wrote for classwhich deliberately skirted problematic consonantswere Myers's first literary attempts.

After completing an accelerated junior high school program, Myers attended Stuyvesant High School, a school for boys that stressed academic achievement. Although he struggled somewhat due to the school's focus on science, Myers met another influential teacher, Bonnie Liebow, who interviewed each of her students and made up individualized reading lists for them; Myers's list included works by such European authors as Emile Zola and Thomas Mann. Liebow also told Myers that he was a gifted writer, and he began thinking of writing as a career.

He wrote every day, sometimes skipping school to sit in a tree in Central Park to read or work on his writing. However, at age sixteen Myers began to feel frustrated. Although he won a prize for an essay contest and was awarded a set of encyclopedias for one of his poems, he realized that writing "had no practical value for a Black child." He recalled: "These minor victories did not bolster my ego. Instead, they convinced me that even though I was bright, even though I might have some talent, I was still defined by factors other than my ability." In addition, Myers was depressed by the fact that he would not be able to attend college due to his family's financial status. Consequently, he wrote in SAAS, he began "writing poems about death, despair, and doom" and began "having doubts about everything in my life."

When not writing or working odd jobs, Myers hung out in the streets: "I was steeped in the mystique of the semi-hoodlum," he recalled in SAAS. He acquired a stiletto and acted as a drug courier; he also became a target for one of the local gangs after intervening in a fight between three gang members and a new boy in the neighborhood. Finally, influenced by the war poems of British writer Rupert Brooke, Myers joined the army at age seventeen in order to, as he wrote in SAAS, "hie myself off to some far-off battlefield and get killed. There, where I fell, would be a little piece of Harlem."

Myers's army experience was less than the glorious adventure promised by the poetry he had read; he went to radio-repair school and spent most of his time playing basketball. "I also learned several efficient ways of killing human beings," he wrote in SAAS. In Presenting Walter Dean Myers, the author told Bishop, "I learned something about dying. I learned a lot about facilitating the process, of making it abstract." He developed a strong antiwar attitude that would later become part of his young-adult novel Fallen Angels, the story of a young black soldier in Vietnam. After three years in the army, he returned to his parents, who had moved to Morristown, New Jersey. After a brief period, he moved back to Harlem, where he took an apartment and began to work at becoming a professional writer. In what he recalled as his "starving artist period" in SAAS, Myers wrote poetry and read books about the Bohemian life by such authors as George Orwell and André Gide; he also lived on two dollars a week from unemployment compensation and lost fifty pounds. Finally, after a friend suggested that he take the civil service exam, Myers got a job with the post office, a job that lasted only a few months. He also married Joyce, a woman he called "wonderful, warm, beautiful, religious, caring" in SAAS. Even after becoming a fathertwo of his three children, Karen and Michael, are from his first marriageMyers continued to try to live a romantic lifestyle. While working odd jobs in a factory and an office, he played bongos with a group of jazz musicians, some of whom were into heroin and cocaine, and wrote jazz-based poetry, some of which was published in Canada. He also began to be published in African-American magazines such as the Negro Digest and the Liberator as well as in men's magazines such as Argosy and Cavalier. "I also," Myers recalled in SAAS, "drank too much and ran around too much." Eventually, his marriage collapsed.

In 1961, Myers enrolled in a writing class with author Lajos Egri, who told him that he had a special talent. A few years later, he attended City College of the City University of New York as a night student, but dropped out. At a writer's workshop at Columbia University led by novelist John Oliver Killens, Killens recommended Myers for a new editorial position at the publishing house Bobbs-Merrill. Myers got the job and became an acquisitions editor. In 1968, he entered a contest for black writers sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. The manuscript Myers submitted was selected as the first-prize winner in the picture book category; in 1969, it was published by Parents' Magazine Press as Where Does the Day Go? The book features Steven, a small black boy whose father takes him and a group of children of various races for an evening walk in the park. When Steven wonders where the day goes, his friends each provide imaginative opinions of their own. Finally, Steven's dad explains that the day and night are different, just like people, and that the times of day are caused by the rotation of the Earth. "Integration, involvement, and togetherness are all deftly handled," noted Mary Eble in School Library Journal, while Zena Sutherland, Dianne L. Monson, and May Hill Arbuthnot claimed in Children and Books that the story has "other strong values in addition to its exploration of the mystery of night and day." The critics noted that Where Does the Day Go? "explains natural phenomena accurately, and it presents an exemplary father."

After the publication of his first book, Myers changed his name from Walter Milton Myers to, as he wrote in SAAS, "one that would honor my foster parents, Walter Dean Myers." He also remarried, and he and his wife Connie had a son, Christopher, an artist who has illustrated several of his father's works. In 1972, Myers published The Dragon Takes a Wife, a picture book that was viewed by several critics as controversial. The story features Harry, a lonely dragon who cannot fight, and Mabel May, the African-American fairy who helps him. In order to acquire a wife, Harry must defeat a knight in battle. When Mabel May turns into a dragon to show Harry how to fight, Harry falls in love with her, defeats the knight, and wins her hand, not to mention a good job at the post office.

Myers received mixed reviews for The Dragon Takes a Wife. For example, a critic in Kirkus Reviews called it "pointless intercultural hocus-pocus," while Nancy Griffin of the New York Times Book Review praised it as "the funniest, most-up-to-the-minute fairy tale of 1972." Some readers were angered by the fact that Mabel May is black and speaks in hip lingo; they were also concerned that this character appears in a fairy tale for young children. The Dragon Takes a Wife was banned by some libraries; Myers also received hate mail from disgruntled adult readers of the book.

In 1975, Myers published his first novel for young adults, Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff. Set in a Harlem neighborhood much like the one in which its author grew up, the story describes a group of young teens who take a positive approach to living in a difficult environment. The story is narrated by eighteen-year-old Stuff, who recalls the year that he was thirteen and formed a sort of anti-gang, the Good People, with his best friends Fast Sam and Cool Clyde plus five other boys and girls from the neighborhood. The Good People have several hilarious adventures, including one where Sam and Clydewho is dressed as a girlwin a dance contest. However, they also deal with such problems as mistaken arrest and the deaths of one of their fathers and a friend who has turned to drugs. The children survive, both through their inner strength and the fellowship of their friends, who are dependable and respectful of one another.

Writing in English Journal, Alleen Pace Nilsen called Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff "a rich, warm story about black kids in which Myers makes the reader feel so close to the characters that ethnic group identification is secondary." Paul Heins of Horn Book noted that "the humorous and ironic elements of the plot give the book the flavor of a Harlem Tom Sawyer or Penrod. " Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff continues to be one of Myers's most popular works, especially among middle graders and junior high school students.

In 1977, after being fired from his job as a senior editor for Bobbs-Merrill due to a dispute with a company vice president, Myers became a full-time writer. It Ain't All for Nothin', a young-adult novel published the next year, is considered the first of the author's more serious, thought-provoking works. The novel features twelve-year-old Tippy, a motherless Harlem boy who has been living with his loving, principled grandmother since he was a baby. When she goes into a nursing home, Tippy moves in with his father Lonnie, an excon who makes his living by stealing and who beats his son viciously. Lonely and afraid, Tippy begins drinking whiskey. When Lonnie and his pals rob a store, he coerces Tippy into participating. Bubba, a member of the group, is shot; in order to save Bubba and save himself, Tippy calls the police and turns in his father. At the end of the novel, Tippy goes to live with Mr. Roland, a kind man who has befriended him. It Ain't All for Nothin' was praised by Steven Matthews in School Library Journal as "a first-rate read," and by a critic in Kirkus Reviews as "like Tippya winner." Although questioning "how many children are really going to 'drop a dime' on their father?," Ashley Jane Pennington concluded in her review in Interracial Books for Children Bulletin that It Ain't All for Nothin' "is a devastating book which needed to be written." In 1984, Myers published Motown and Didi: A Love Story, a highly praised sequel that features two of the novel's peripheral characters. A romance between two Harlem teens, Motown and Didi includes a strong antidrug message as well as the theme that love can conquer all.

In 1988 Myers published Scorpions and Fallen Angels, two novels for young people that are considered among his best. In Scorpions twelve-year-old Jamal lives in Harlem with his mother and younger sister. He is approached to take the place of his older brother Randy, who is in jail for killing a man, as the leader of his gang, the Scorpions. At first, Jamal refuses; however, he is fascinated with the gun that Randy's friend Mack gives him and is searching for a way to help his family raise the money for Randy's appeal. Jamal and his best friend Tito, a sensitive Puerto Rican boy, join the Scorpions, who are dealing cocaine. During a confrontation, Jamal is defended by Tito, who uses the gun Mack had given Jamal to kill to protect his friend. Marcus Crouch, in the Junior Bookshelf, wrote that Myers "writes with great power, capturing the cadences of black New York, and keeps a firm hold on his narrative and his emotions. He is a fine story-teller as well as a social critic and, I suspect, a moralist." Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Roger Sutton noted that Myers's "compassion for Tito and Jamal is deep; perhaps the book's seminal achievement is the way it makes us realize how young, in Harlem and elsewhere, twelve years old really is."

Fallen Angels describes the horrors of the Vietnam War from the perspective of Richie Perry, a seventeen-year-old African American who has joined the U.S. Army as a way to make life easier for his mother and younger brother in Harlem. During the course of a year, Richie experiences fear and terror as he fights in the war; he burns the bodies of American soldiers because they cannot be carried andwith a rifle at his headshoots a North Vietnamese soldier in the face; finally, after being wounded twice, he is sent home. Underscoring the novel, which includes rough language and gallows humor, is a strong antiwar message; Myers also addresses such issues as racial discrimination within the service and the conditions faced by the Vietnamese people. Calling Myers "a writer of skill, maturity, and judgment," Ethel L. Heins maintained in Horn Book that, "With its intensity and vividness in depicting a young soldier amid the chaos and the carnage of war, the novel recalls Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. " W. Keith McCoy, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, commented that "Everything about this book rings true," while Mary Veeder, writing in Chicago's Tribune Books, noted that Fallen Angels "may be the best novel for young adults I've read this year."


Myers wrote Fallen Angels as a tribute to his brother Sonny, who was killed on his first day as a soldier in Vietnam; he also based much of the book on his own experience in the U.S. Army. In discussing both Fallen Angels and Scorpions with Kimberly Olson Fakih in Publishers Weekly, Myers called these books "a departure" and "very serious, probing work." He concluded: "Not that the others didn't address serious issues, too, but the new ones were more difficult to write." In 1993, Myers published A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, a well-received biography of Colonel Fred V. Cherry, an Air Force pilot and African American who was held as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for nearly eight years.


In addition to his fiction, Myers has written several highly praised informational books for children and young people in which he characteristically outlines the fight for freedom by people of color; he has also written biographies of such figures as Toussaint L'Ouverture, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom is one of Myers's most well regarded works of nonfiction. In this book, the author recounts the history of black Americans through both overviews and profiles of individuals. "What happens," wrote a critic in Kirkus Reviews, "when a gifted novelist chooses to write the story of his people? In this case, the result is engrossing history with a strong unifying theme, the narrative enriched with accounts of outstanding lives." Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post Book World, added that Myers "writes with the vividness of a novelist, the balance of a historian, and the passion of an advocate. He tells a familiar story and shocks us with it all over again." Writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, Kellie Flynn noted that Now Is Your Time! "is alive and vitalwith breathing biographical sketches and historic interpretations like rabbit punches."

With Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom Myers tells the dramatic story of the captive Africans who mutinied against their captors on the slave ship Amistad in the late 1830s. The book recounts the hellish journey on the ship and the forced landing in Connecticut as well as the landmark trial and the struggle of the West Africans to return home. Writing in Booklist, Hazel Rochman stated, "The narrative is exciting, not only the account of the uprising but also the tension of the court arguments about whether the captives were property and what their rights were in a country that banned the slave trade but allowed slavery." Gerry Larson added in a review for School Library Journal that, "With characteristic scholarship, clarity, insight, and compassion, Myers presents readers with the facts and the moral and historical significance of the Amistad episode."

A longtime collector of historical photographs and documents depicting the lives and culture of African Americans, Myers has used his own art to illustrate several of his informational books. The photos and letters from the author's collection have also inspired several of his works, including volumes of original poetry on black children and mothers and the biography At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England. Published in 1999, this work reconstructs the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a child of royal African descent who became a goddaughter of Queen Victoria as well as a British celebrity. Saved from a sacrificial rite in Dahomey by English sea captain Frederick E. Forbes, orphaned Sarahnamed after her rescuer and his shipwas brought to England as a gift for Queen Victoria from the Dahomian king who slaughtered her family. Victoria provided the means for Sarahnicknamed Sallyto be educated as a young woman of privilege in a missionary school in Sierra Leone. Sally, who often returned to England to visit her benefactor, grew up to marry a West African businessman, a marriage arranged by Buckingham Palace; she named her first-born child Victoria. Eventually returning with her husband to Africa, Sally taught in missionary schools until she died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-six.

Working from a packet of letters he discovered in a London bookstore, Myers tells Sally's story, which he embellishes with quotes from Queen Victoria's diary, newspapers, and other memoirs of the time. A critic in Kirkus Reviews commented, "This vividly researched biography will enthrall readers, and ranks among Myers's best writing." Calling At Her Majesty's Request a "fascinating biography" and a "moving and very humane portrait of a princess," a reviewer in Publishers Weekly concluded that Myers "portrays a young woman who never truly belongs."

The Blues of Flats Brown is a children's picture book about a dog who flees to Memphis and has a hit record, angering his former owner, the mean A. J. Grubbs, who follows him on to New York. "Myers's shaggy fantasy has the slow-and-easy pacing of a lazy Southern afternoon," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Myers beautifully conveys the blues' unique roots and the way the music bestows comfort, catharsis, and healing," said Shelle Rosenfeld in Booklist.

Myers's second book about Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, focuses on the stages of Malcolm's life and contains Leonard Jenkins's artwork, "full-color montage illustrations, in acrylic, pastel, and spray paint . . . like mural art, with larger-than-life individual portraits set against the crowded streets and the swirl of politics," wrote Booklist contributor Rochman, who noted that nearly every page contains a quote from speeches or writings. Myers chronicles Malcolm's childhood, his time in the Charlestown State Prison, his conversion to Islam, leadership of the Black Muslims, and ultimate break with Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad, and his pilgrimage to Mecca prior to his assassination in 1965.

In The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, Myers documents the life of the boxer born Cassius Clay from his childhood in segregated St. Louis to his Olympic win in 1960 and his success as a world-class athlete. Myers then relates Clay's commitment as a Black Muslim and his political activism as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Myers also reports on Ali's major fights against Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. Horn Book contributor Jack Forman felt the book "is more portrait of Ali's character and cultural impact than a narrative of his life." "This is finally a story about a black man of tremendous courage," wrote Bill Ott in Booklist, "the kind of universal story that needs a writer as talented as Myers to retell it for every generation." Khafre K. Abif added in Black Issues Book Review that Myers "inspires a new generation of fans by exposing the hazards Ali faced in boxing, the rise of a champion, and now his battle against Parkinson's disease."

In Bad Boy: A Memoir, Myers begins with an account of his childhood, then takes the reader through his adolescenceduring which he often skipped school and sometimes made deliveries for drug dealersand to his beginnings as a writer. Rochman said, "The most beautiful writing is about Mama: how she taught him to read, sharing True Romance magazines." "The author's growing awareness of racism and of his own identity as a black man make up one of the most interesting threads," wrote Miranda Doyle in School Library Journal. Myers' "voice and heart are consistently heard and felt throughout," concluded a Horn Book contributor.

Myers's nonfiction title USS Constellation relates the entire story of the famous ship, from construction to war victories to encounters with slave ships to crew training. The book is complemented by first-person accounts, along with illustrations and charts. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, praised this "well-researched" volume, adding that it is a "unique addition to American history collections." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised Myers book as a"meticulously researched, fast-flowing chronicle," and applauded the book for offering "a larger view of the shaping of America." Betty Carter, writing in Horn Book, noted that the first-person accounts "lend authenticity while personalizing events." The novel Shooter focuses on the events leading up to and following a school shooting that many reviewers compared to the real-life and well-publicized Columbine school tragedy that had occurred months prior to Shooter 's publication. The novel is told through a unique narrative approach: the book consists of police reports, news articles, a journal, and other "real-life" documentation of the event. For its dark subject matter and its unique narration, Shooter has often been compared with Monster. Of Shooter, Lauren Adams wrote in Horn Book that Myers's "exacting look at the many possible players and causes in the events makes for a compelling story." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the author for his handling of a controversial subject in which "no one is completely innocent and no one is entirely to blame." The reviewer concluded, "Readers will find themselves racing through the pages, then turning back to pore over the details once more."

"Children and adults," wrote Myers in SAAS, "must have role models with which they can identify"; therefore in his writing he has attempted to "deliver images upon which [they] could build and expand their own worlds." In an interview with Roger Sutton for School Library Journal, Myers noted that writing about the African-American experience is fraught with complexity and difficulties. "Very often people want more from books than a story," the author explained; "they want books to represent them well. This is where I get the flak."

Commenting on the question of writing primarily for a black audience, Myers stated: "as a black person you are always representing the race. . . . So what you have to do is try to write it as well as you can and hope that if you write the story well enough, people won't be offended." Myers sees an element of racism in the notion that black authors must write about "black subjects" for a primarily black audience. Likewise, he views the controversy surrounding the question of whether whites should write about the black experience as "a false issue." "I think basically you need to write what you believe in."

Writing in SAAS, Myers stated that he feels the need to show young blacks "the possibilities that exist for them that were never revealed to me as a youngster; possibilities that did not even exist for me then." He continued: "As a Black writer I want to talk about my people. . . . I want to tell Black children about their humanity and about their history and how to grease their legs so the ash won't show and how to braid their hair so it's easy to comb on frosty winter mornings. The books come. They pour from me at a great rate. . . . There is always one more story to tell, one more person whose life needs to be held up to the sun."

In an interview in Teaching and Learning Literature, he noted: "What I do with whatever art I have is to try to communicate the human experience." He works to communicate this experience to "my sons, my son's sons, daughters, the next generation, and that is what life is about. We are the ones that have the gift of story, the gift of passing it on." Writing in Children's Books and Their Creators, Myers concluded: "What I do with my books is to create windows to my world that all may peer into. I share the images, the feelings and thoughts, and, I hope, the delight."


Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Bishop, Rudine Sims, Presenting Walter Dean Myers, Twayne, 1991.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 33: Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1984, pp. 199-202.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986, pp. 143-156.

PERIODICALS

African American Review, spring, 1988, R. H. Lane, "Keepin It Real: Walter Dean Myers and the Promise of African-American Children's Literature," p. 125.

Black Issues Book Review, May, 2001, Khafre K. Abif, review of The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, p. 80.

Booklist, February 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, "Some Versions of Amistad, " p. 1003; February 15, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, p. 1103; March 1, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of The Blues of Flats Brown, p. 1242; January 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of The Greatest, p. 952; May 1, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Bad Boy: A Memoir, p. 1673; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of USS Constellation, p. 1841.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 1988, review of Scorpions, p. 235.

English Journal, March, 1976, Alleen Pace Nilsen, "Love and the Teenage Reader," pp. 90-92.

Horn Book, August, 1975, Ethel L. Heins, review of Fallen Angels, pp. 503-504; July-August, 1988, Paul Heins, review of Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, pp. 388-389; May, 2000, review of Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, p. 336; January, 2000, Jack Forman, review of The Greatest, p. 115; July, 2001, review of Bad Boy, p. 473; May-June, 2004, Lauren Adams, review of Shooter, p. 335; July-August, 2004, Betty Carter, review of USS Constellation, p. 469.

Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Volume 10, number 4, 1979, Ashley Jane Pennington, review of It Ain't All for Nothin', p. 18.

Junior Bookshelf, August, 1990, Marcus Crouch, review of Scorpions, pp. 190-191.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1972, review of The Dragon Takes a Wife, p. 256; October 15, 1978, review of It Ain't All for Nothin', p. 1143; October 1, 1991, review of Now Is Your Time!, p. 1537; December 15, 1998, review of At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, p. 1802.

New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1972, Nancy Griffin, review of The Dragon Takes a Wife, p. 8; October 21, 2001, Kermit Frazier, review of Bad Boy, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 1988, "Walter Dean Myers," p. 117; February 8, 1999, review of At Her Majesty's Request, p. 215; January 24, 2000, review of The Blues of Flats Brown, p. 311; March 22, 2004, review of Shooter, p. 87; June 28, 2004, review of USS Constellation, p. 52.

School Librarian, August, 1990, Allison Hurst, review of Fallen Angels, pp. 118-119.

School Library Journal, April 15, 1970, Mary Eble, review of Where Does the Day Go?, p. 111; October, 1978, Steven Matthews, review of It Aint' All for Nothin', p. 158; May, 1998, Gerry Larson, review of Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom, p. 158; March, 2000, Karen James, review of The Blues of Flats Brown, p. 210; May, 2001, Miranda Doyle, review of Bad Boy, p. 169; December, 2001, Kathleen Baxter, review of The Greatest, p. 39.

TALL, September-October, 1998, Ellen A. Greever, "Making Connections in the Life and Works of Walter Dean Myers," pp. 42-54.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), November 13, 1988, Mary Veeder, "Some Versions of Fallen Angels, " p. 6.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1988, W. Keith McCoy, review of Fallen Angels, p. 133; February, 1992, Kellie Flynn, review of Now Is Your Time!, p. 398.

Washington Post Book World, March 8, 1992, Michael Dirda, review of Now Is Your Time!, p. 11.

Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1993, Frances Bradburn, review of The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, p. 88.*

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Myers, Walter Dean

Walter Dean Myers

1937—

Writer

Walter Dean Myers is one of the best-known African-American writers of children's and young adult literature. Since the late 1960s, Myers has published dozens of books for young readers seeking realistic stories and recognizable characters. In the pages of his books Myers has tackled such pressing issues as teen pregnancy, crime, imprisonment, drug abuse, school shootings, and gang violence, as well as the ties of family and friendship that exist in black communities. He also frequently addresses historical topics in both fiction and nonfiction books and has written many biographies of notable black Americans. He often collaborates with his son, Christopher Myers, a respected illustrator, and has received numerous awards and honors, including the Coretta Scott King Award. Carmen Subryan noted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: "Whether he is writing about the ghettos of New York, the remote countries of Africa, or social institutions, Myers captures the essence of the developing experiences of youth."

Raised by Foster Parents

Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1937. Before he turned three years old, his mother died, leaving the family in chaos. Caring for his many children with no mother and little income, Myers's father placed the boy with his first wife and her new husband. With his foster parents, Herbert and Florence Dean, and their biological children, Myers moved to Harlem. His teachers recognized his intelligence and his foster parents encouraged him to read and write—although Herbert Dean was himself illiterate—but Myers was stigmatized because of a speech impediment. Many years later, in an interview with Juan Williams on National Public Radio, Myers admitted that he had carried another burden as a child: his foster mother's alcoholism. These factors led the young Myers to neglect his studies and get into trouble often.

Although he knew early on that he had a talent for writing poems and stories, Myers was convinced that professional writing was for those from an elite white background. "I was from a family of laborers, and the idea of writing stories or essays was far removed from their experience," Myers clarified in Something about the Author Autobiography Series. "Writing had no practical value for a black child… Minor victories did not bolster my ego. Instead they convinced me that even though I might have some talent, I was still defined by factors other than my ability." Myers was classified as a "bright" student in school and was steered toward college-preparation courses. He won several awards—including a set of encyclopedias—for his essays and poetry, but, as he recounted in his 2001 memoir Bad Boy, he was torn between a hypermasculine drive to prove himself on the street and a more private, and, he felt, embarrassing, urge toward "book-smarts."

Although he thought he would never go to college, Myers continued writing. He bought a used typewriter with money he earned at a part-time job, and he read several books each week. At the age of seventeen he joined the army, still convinced that writing would be only a lifetime hobby. After three years of military service he was able to pay part of his college tuition with money from the G.I. Bill. He earned a bachelor's degree, married, and supported a family with a succession of jobs. Occasionally a periodical such as The Liberator or Negro Digest would publish one of his pieces. By 1970 Myers's marriage had ended. He was, however, beginning to make strides toward his goal of becoming a professional writer. In 1969 he had published his first book, Where Does the Day Go? A picture book for children, Where Does the Day Go? features a group of children from several ethnic backgrounds who discuss their ideas about night and day with a sensitive and wise black father during a long walk. The book won a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. It also established Myers as an author who addressed the needs of a segment of children who had too long been overlooked by the American publishing industry.

Began Writing for Teens

During the 1970s Myers worked as a senior editor for the Bobbs-Merrill publishing house. He also wrote additional picture books and began writing young adult novels. Among his earliest fiction for teens were the books Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff and Mojo and the Russians. Both tales feature, in Subryan's words, adventures depicting "the learning experiences of most youths growing up in a big city where negative influences abound." Central to these and subsequent stories by Myers is the concept of close friendships as a positive, nurturing influence, as well as the healing and strengthening power of humor. Drawing on his own youthful experiences and the stories told him by his foster father, Myers has presented characters for whom urban life is an uplifting experience despite the dangers and disappointments lurking in the streets.

Books such as The Young Landlords and Sweet Illusions tell stories of teenagers faced with adult responsibilities. Hoops and The Outside Shot offer realistic treatments of the place of sports in young people's lives. It Ain't All for Nothin', Won't Know Till I Get There, and Scorpions, among others, show young adult characters who overcome the lure of crime and drugs or the pain of broken families. In 1992 Myers published The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, a humorous adventure-crime novel for young readers that showcased African-American characters in the Wild West. His next book, Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse, was something of a departure for Myers. While his focus was still the black American experience, he told of it in poetry that he had written to describe photographs of black children at the turn of the twentieth century.

At a Glance …

Born Walter Milton Myers, August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, WV; son of George Ambrose and Mary (Green) Myers; raised from age three by Herbert Julius (a shipping clerk) and Florence (a factory worker) Dean; married Constance Brendel (second wife), June 19, 1973; children: (first marriage) Karen, Michael Dean; (second marriage) Christopher. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954-57. Education: Attended State College of the City University of New York; Empire State College, BA

Career: New York State Department of Labor, Brooklyn, NY, employment supervisor, 1966-69; Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., New York City, senior trade book editor, 1970-77; writer, 1977-.

Awards: Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1968; American Library Association "Best books for young adults" citations, 1978-79, 1982; Coretta Scott King Awards, 1980, 1984, 1991-93, 1997; Parents' Choice Award, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1982, 1984, 1987-88, 1990, 1992; Newbery Honor Book, 1989, 1993; Golden Kite Award Honor Book, 1991; Jane Addams Award Honor Book, 1991; Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book, 1992; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book, 1992, 1997; Jeremiah Ludington Award, Educational Paperback Association, 1993; CRAB-berry Award, 1993; Margaret A. Edwards Award, American Library Association/School Library Journal, 1994; Michael L. Printz Award, 1999.

Addresses: Home—2543 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, NJ 07304; E-mail—mailbox@commat;walterdeanmyers.net.

A number of Myers's works center on historical or biographical subjects. In the nonfiction book Now Is Your Time! The African American Struggle for Freedom, Myers combined historical narrative with biographical accounts of courageous and innovative blacks throughout American history. Similarly, in Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, Myers wove the story of the civil rights leader's life and work into the larger story of the historical context of the civil rights movement. For Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom, Myers included ample archival material—maps, newspaper clippings, illustrations, and photographs—to interpret the story of mutiny on the slave ship Amistad. In The Greatest: The Life of Muhammad Ali, Myers combined biographical detail with a broader exploration of politics, religion, racism, and the world of professional boxing to illustrate the life of one of the greatest and most controversial American athletes.

Wrote about War, Juvenile Crime

Beginning in the late 1980s war became a recurring topic in Myer's works. Fallen Angels, published in 1988, is a fictionalized account of a young black soldier's experiences fighting in the Vietnam War, where he begins to question his own motives for fighting and faces institutional racism in the armed forces. Praised for its unvarnished portrayal of war, Fallen Angels won the 1989 Coretta Scott King Award and is still considered a landmark novel in children's literature. In A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, Myers recounted the experiences of Air Force Colonel Fred V. Cherry, the first African-American fighter pilot to become a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Myers returned to the subject of Vietnam in Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, an illustrated book for grade-school children for which Myers wrote the narrative.

In 2008 Myers wrote about the Iraq war in his novel Sunrise over Fallujah. A loose sequel to Fallen Angels, Sunrise over Fallujah centers on the nephew of the soldier depicted in the earlier novel. Against his father's wishes, the young man decides to forego college and join the military after witnessing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. When he is sent to Iraq in the early days of the invasion, he learns that the situation is not as clear-cut as he had imagined, and, like his uncle in Vietnam, he finds that fighting in a war raises far more questions than it answers. Reviewing the novel in the New York Times Book Review, Leonard S. Marcus wrote simply, "This is an astonishing book."

In Monster he explored another complicated topic; the novel recounts a young man's experience in prison awaiting trial after he takes part in a fatal robbery. In 2000 the novel was awarded the first Michael L. Printz Award, an honor bestowed by the American Library Association (ALA) for excellence in young adult literature. In Shooter, Myers tackled the related problems of bullying and school shootings. In an interview in Scholastic News Online, he explained that he was motivated to write the book after going to speak to young people in juvenile detention centers and found that being bullied was a common experience among them. "[Being bullied] changes a kid. When you have an 11- or 12-year-old kid his or her life is full of potential. I want to show what turns these kids around. Is it the abuse they suffer? Why are kids abusing themselves? Because of the abuse they are already going through."

The author of more than ninety books, Myers was selected by the American Library Association to deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture for 2009. The selection is an award that is given to "an individual of distinction in the field of children's literature," according to the ALA Web site. Amy Kellman, chairperson of the selection committee explained, "Myers does not shy away from real and serious problems, yet his work offers hope as it stresses connections to others and personal responsibility…. His themes of the human struggle are universal." In 2008 Myers told Marti Parham in Jet, "I'm never going to stop writing. It's my hobby as much as it is my profession. …I do this because I love it. I'll write until I die."

Selected works

Books

(As Walter M. Myers) Where Does the Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty, Parents' Magazine Press, 1969.

The Dancers, illustrated by Anne Rockwell, Parents' Magazine Press, 1972.

The Dragon Takes a Wife, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.

Fly, Jimmy, Fly!, illustrated by Moneta Barnett, Putnam, 1974.

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, Viking, 1975.

The World of Work: A Guide to Choosing a Career, Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.

Social Welfare, F. Watts, 1976.

Brainstorm, with photographs by Chuck Freedman, F. Watts, 1977.

Victory for Jamie, Scholastic Book Services, 1977.

It Ain't All for Nothin', Viking, 1978.

The Young Landlords, Viking, 1979.

The Black Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush, Viking, 1980.

The Golden Serpent, illustrated by Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen, Viking, 1980.

Hoops, Delacorte, 1981.

The Legend of Tarik, Viking, 1981.

Won't Know Till I Get There, Viking, 1982.

The Nicholas Factor, Viking, 1983.

Tales of a Dead King, Morrow, 1983.

Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird, illustrated by Leslie Morrill, Delacorte, 1984.

Motown and Didi: A Love Story, Viking, 1984.

The Outside Shot, Delacorte, 1984.

Sweet Illusions, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1986.

Crystal, Viking, 1987.

Shadow of the Red Moon, Harper, 1987.

Fallen Angels, Scholastic, Inc., 1988.

Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid, Delacorte, 1988.

Scorpions, Harper, 1988.

The Mouse Rap, Harper & Row, 1990.

Mop, Moondance, and the Nagasaki Knights, Delacorte Press, 1992.

Now Is Your Time!: The African American Struggle for Freedom, HarperCollins, 1992.

A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, illustrated by Frederick Porter, Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1992.

The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, HarperCollins, 1992.

Somewhere in the Darkness, Scholastic, 1992.

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, Scholastic, 1993.

Young Martin's Promise, Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.

Darnell Rock Reporting, Delacorte Press, 1994.

The Glory Field, Scholastic, 1994.

The Dragon Takes a Wife, illustrated by Fiona French, Scholastic, 1995.

Glorious Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse, HarperCollins, 1995.

Shadow of the Red Moon, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic, 1995.

The Story of the Three Kingdoms, illustrated by Ashley Bryan, HarperCollins, 1995.

How Mr. Monkey Saw the WholeWorld, illustrated by Synthia Saint James, Doubleday, 1996.

More River to Cross: An African American Photograph Album, Harcourt Brace, 1996.

Smiffy Blue: Ace Crime Detective: Case of the Missing Ruby and Other Stories, Scholastic, 1996.

Toussaint L'overtoure: The Fight for Haiti's Freedom, illustrated by Jacob Lawrence, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom, Dutton, 1997.

Harlem, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic, 1997.

Angel to Angel, HarperCollins, 1998.

Slam!, Scholastic, 1998.

At Her Majesty's Request, Scholastic, 1999.

The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy, Chisholm Trail, 1871 (My Name Is America), Scholastic, 1999.

The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: World War II, Normandy, France (My Name Is America), Scholastic, 1999.

Monster, HarperCollins, 1999.

145th Street: Short Stories, Delacorte, 2000.

The Blues of Flats Brown, illustrated by Nina Laden, Holiday House 2000.

The Greatest: The Life of Muhammad Ali, Scholastic, 2000.

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, HarperCollins 2000.

Bad Boy: A Memoir, HarperCollins, 2001.

The Journal of Biddy Owens: The Negro Leagues, 1948 (My Name Is America), Scholastic, 2001.

Handbook for Boys: A Novel, HarperCollins, 2002.

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, illustrated by Ann Grafalconi, Harper Collins, 2002.

Three Swords for Granada, Holiday House, 2002.

The Beast, Scholastic, 2003.

Blues Journey, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Holiday House, 2003.

The Dream Bearer, HarperCollins, 2003.

A Time to Love: Stories from the Old Testament, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic, 2003.

Antarctica, Scholastic, 2004.

Constellation, Holiday House, 2004.

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, Holiday House, 2004.

I've Seen the Promised Land; Martin Luther King, HarperCollins, 2004.

Shooter, HarperCollins, 2004.

Southern Fried, St. Martin's Minotaur, 2004.

Autobiography of My Dead Brother, illustrated by Christopher Myers, HarperCollins, 2005.

The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage, HarperCollins, 2006.

Jazz, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Holiday House, 2006.

Street Love, HarperCollins, 2006.

Game, HarperTeen, 2008.

Sunrise over Fallujah, Scholastic, 2008.

Sources

Books

Bishop, Rudine Sims, Presenting Walter Dean Myers, Twayne, 1990.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 33: Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, Gale, 1984, pp. 199-202.

Rush, Theresa G., editor, Black American Writers: Past and Present, Scarecrow Press, 1975.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 2, Gale, 1986, pp. 143-56.

Periodicals

Booklist, May 1, 2008, p. 97; September 1, 2008, p. 121.

Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1993, section 7, p. 1.

Ebony, September 1975.

Jet, April 28, 2008, p. 37.

New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1986, p. 50; May 11, 2008.

World Literature Today, May-June 2007, p. 63.

Online

American Library Association, "Walter Dean Myers to Deliver 2009 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture," January 14, 2008, http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2008/january2008/arbuthnot08.cfm (accessed October 1, 2008).

Carillo, Donna, "Walter Dean Myers on Stopping the Bullies," Scholastic News Online, http://teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/bullying/bullying_news/index.asp?article=WalterDeanMyers&topic=0#, (accessed October 1, 2008).

Walter Dean Myers, http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/ (accessed October 1, 2008).

Other

Williams, Juan, "Walter Dean Myers: A ‘Bad Boy’ Makes Good," National Public Radio, August 19, 2008, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93699480 (accessed October 1, 2008).

—Anne Janette Johnson and Nancy Dziedzic

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Myers, Walter Dean 1937–

Walter Dean Myers 1937

Young adult writer

At a Glance

Filled a Void for Young Readers

Selected writings

Sources

Walter Dean Myers is one of the best known African-American writers in the field of young adult literature. Since the late 1970s, Myers has published more than two dozen novels, all of them for young black readers who seek realistic stories and recognizable characters. In the pages of his books Myers has tackled such pressing issues as teen pregnancy, crime, drug abuse, and gang violence, but he has also examined at length, the ties of family and friendship that exist in black communities everywhere. The authors work has received numerous national honors, including the Coretta Scott King award and the Newbery honor book citation. Carmen Subryan noted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: Whether he is writing about the ghettos of New York, the remote countries of Africa, or social institutions, Myers captures the essence of the developing experiences of youth.

Myers is best known for his novels that explore the lives of young American blacks, but he is equally adept at producing fairy tales, ghost stories, science fiction, and adventure sagas. Subryan finds a common theme throughout Myerss far-ranging works. He is concerned with the development of youths, she wrote, and his message is always the same: young people must face the reality of growing up and must persevere, knowing that they can succeed despite any odds they face.! In her work Presenting Walter Dean Myers, Rudine Sims Bishop maintained that the author writes of love and laughter and offers compassion and hope. He writes of the need to find strength within oneself and of the possibility of finding strength within the group, whether the group is the family, the peer group, or the community.

Walter Milton Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1937. Before he turned three years old, his mother died, leaving the family in chaos. In an essay for Something About the Author (SATA) Autobiography Series, Myers wrote: Hard times are common in West Virginia. When my mother died, my father was left to care for Imogene, myself, my brothers Douglas and George, and my sisters Géraldine, Ethel, Viola, and Gertrude. The situation quickly became impossible for Myerss father, but fate intervened. Extended families are common among poor people, Myers recalled. If a family is experiencing difficulty it is not out of the ordinary for another family, faring only slightly better, to take in one or more of the first familys children. Herbert and Florence Dean took me to raise.

At a Glance

Born Walter Milton Myers, August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, WV; son of George Ambrose and Mary (Green) Myers; raised from age three by Herbert Julius (a shipping clerk) and Florence (a factory worker) Dean; married second wife, Constance Brendel, June 19, 1973; children: (first marriage) Karen, Michael Dean; (second marriage) Christopher. Education: Attended State College of the City University of New York; Empire State College, B.A.

New York State Department of Labor, Brooklyn, NY, employment supervisor, 1966-69; Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., New York City, senior trade book editor, 1970-77; writer, 1977. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954-57.

Selected Awards: Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1968, for Where Does the Day Co?; American Library Associations Best books for young adults citations, 1978, for It Aint All for Nothing 1979, for The Young Landlords, and 1982, for Hoops; Coretta Scott King awards, 1980, for The Young Landlords, 1984, for Motown and Didi: A Love Story, and 1991 for Now Is Your Time!: The African-American Struggle for Freedom; Notable Childrens Trade Book in Social Studies citation, 1982, for The Legend of Tarik; Newbery honor book citation, 1989, for Scorpions.

Address: Home 2543 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, NJ 07304.

Herbert and Florence Dean, a hard-working couple with children of their own, became foster parents to Walter and two of his sisters. They all moved to the Harlem district of New York City, and both of the Deans found blue-collar jobs to support the children. Since Walter had been little more than a toddler when his mother died, he soon forgot the family tragedy and accepted the Dean household as his own. In turn, his foster parents treated him kindly. His new mother enjoyed hearing him read out loud, and his new father delighted in telling him scary storiesand sometimes acting them out as well. Myerss elementary school was integrated, and he grew up with Irish and Jewish friends.

Myers faced some difficulties in childhood, however. He was plagued by a speech impediment, and other youngsters teased him about it. Speaking in front of a class was particularly difficult for Myers, until one of his teachers suggested that he could write something of his own to read out loud. I began writing poems so that I could avoid the words that I could not pronounce, the author recalled in his SATA Autobiography Series essay. Myers discovered that he loved to write, and soon he was filling notebooks with handwritten stories, poetry, and journal entries. Ideas for his own work came from a variety of sourcesfrom the literature taught in his classrooms to the comic books he bought at the newsstand.

The fascination with words was a mixed blessing. Myers was classified as a bright student in school and was steered toward college-preparation courses. He won several awardsincluding a set of encyclopediasfor his essays and poetry, but frustration set in as his family made light of his academic achievements and encouraged him to be realistic about his future. I was from a family of laborers, and the idea of writing stories or essays was far removed from their experience, Myers clarified in SATA Autobiography Series. Writing had no practical value for a black child. Minor victories did not bolster my ego. Instead they convinced me that even though I might have some talent, I was still defined by factors other than my ability.

Although he thought he would never go to college, Myers continued writing. He bought a used typewriter with money he earned at a part-time job, and he read several books each week. At the age of 17 he joined the army, still convinced that writing would be only a lifetime hobby. After three years of military service he was able to pay part of his college tuition with money from the G.I. Bill. He earned a bachelors degree, married, and supported a family with a succession of jobs. Occasionally a periodical such as The Liberator or Negro Digest would publish one of his pieces. Myers was struggling to find himself and to determine his future. At last, he told in his SATA Autobiography Series essay, he made a choice. I decided that what I wanted to do with myself was to become a writer and live what I imagined would be the life of the writer, whatever that might be.

Filled a Void for Young Readers

By 1970 Myerss marriage had ended, a victim of his years of self-discovery. He was, however, beginning to make strides toward his goal of becoming a professional writer. In 1969 he published his first book, Where Does the Day Go?A picture book for children, Where Does the Day Go? features a group of children from several ethnic backgrounds who discuss their ideas about night and day with a sensitive and wise black father during a long walk. The book won a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. It also established Walter M. Myerswho would shortly change his name to honor his adopted parentsas an author addressing the needs of minority children who had too long been overlooked by the American publishing industry.

As the 1970s progressed, Myers worked as a senior editor for the Bobbs-Merrill publishing house. He also released more picture books and began writing the young adult novels for which he has become famous. Among his earliest fiction for teens were the books Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff and Mojo and the Russians. Both tales feature, in Subryans words, adventures depicting the learning experiences of most youths growing up in a big city where negative influences abound. Central to these and subsequent Walter Dean Myers stories is the concept of close friendships as a positive, nurturing influence, as well as the healing and strengthening power of humor. Drawing upon his own youthful experiences and the stories told him by his foster father, Myers has presented characters for whom urban life is an uplifting experience despite the dangers and disappointments lurking in the streets.

Myers did not necessarily set out to become a writer with a mission, but that is the way it turned out for him. As he began creating his own characters, he realized that he was reacting against the literature he had grown up readingthe books of his era which, if they featured blacks at all, portrayed them as idiots or buffoons. I was gaining an awareness of the black image in literature, film, and television, the author remembered in the SATA Autobiography Series. The image was disturbing. Blacks were portrayed as nonserious people. Perhaps we were sports figures, or hustlers, or comedians, but we were still nonserious. Remembering my own childhood, I realized what an effect that had on the black child. I hadnt been aware of feelings of inadequacy or the derivation of those feelings when I was a child. But I could see that I did feel inadequate as a black person. Everyone presented to me when I was a childpresidents, inventors, writers, composershad been white The message was that even the best of the blacks were somehow fatally flawed And so I have come to understand one of my roles, newly found and cautiously approached, but there nevertheless. As my books for teenagers gained in popularity I sensed that my soul-searching for my place in the artistic world was taking on an added dimension. As a black writer I had not only the personal desire to find myself, but the obligation to use my abilities to fill a void.

Myers has been fulfilling that obligation as a full-time writer for more than a decade. Books such as The Young Landlords and Sweet Illusions tell the stories of teenagers faced with adult responsibilities. Hoops and The Outside Shot offer realistic treatments of the place of sports in young peoples lives. It Aint All for Nothin, Wont Know Till I Get There, and Scorpions, among others, show young adult characters who overcome the lure of crime and drugs or the pain of broken families. In his SATA Autobiography Series essay, Myers wrote: I have a younger brother, Horace, who teaches in the New York City school system. When he asked me to come and speak to his class, I realized how few resources are available for black youngsters to open the world to them. I feel the need to show them the possibilities that exist for them that were never revealed to me as a youngster; possibilities that did not even exist for me then.

Today Myers is a respected elder statesman in the young adult literature market, an author who commands an audience that crosses all racial and economic lines. His commitment to providing quality literature for black children about black children has led him into the realms of fairy tale, fable, and science fiction, and he makes numerous personal appearances at schools and conventions to discuss his work and to encourage other writers to persevere. Myerss books have won a variety of awards, most notably the Coretta Scott King Award and the prestigious Newbery honor book citation (for Scorpions). Myers, who lives with his second wife in New Jersey, is a frequent traveler to Europe, South America, Africa, and the Far East. When he is home, he tries to write ten pages per day, and he may have several projects in motion at one time.

Reflecting on his career in his SATA Autobiography Series piece, Myers concluded: As a black writer I want to talk about my people. I want to tell the reader about an old black man I knew who told me he was God. I want to tell a reader how a blind man feels when he hears that he is not wanted because he is black. I want to tell black children about their humanity and about their history and how to grease their legs so the ash wont show and how to braid their hair so its easy to comb on frosty winter mornings. The books come. They pour from me at a great rate. I cant see how any writer can ever stop. There is always one more story to tell, one more person whose life needs to be held up to the sun.

Selected writings

(as Walter M. Myers) Where Does the Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty, Parents Magazine Press, 1969.

The Dancers, illustrated by Anne Rockwell, Parents Magazine Press, 1972.

The Dragon Takes a Wife, illustrated by Ann Grifalconi, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.

Fly, Jimmy, Fly!, illustrated by Moneta Bamett, Putnam, 1974.

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, Viking, 1975.

The World of Work: A Guide to Choosing a Career, Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.

Social Welfare, F. Watts, 1976.

Brainstorm, with photographs by Chuck Freedman, F. Watts, 1977.

Victory for Jamie, Scholastic Book Services, 1977.

It Aint All for Nothin, Viking, 1978.

The Young Landlords, Viking, 1979.

The Black Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush, Viking, 1980.

The Golden Serpent, illustrated by Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen, Viking, 1980.

Hoops, Delacorte, 1981.

The Legend of Tarik, Viking, 1981.

Wont Know Till I Get There, Viking, 1982.

The Nicholas Factor, Viking, 1983.

Tales of a Dead King, Morrow, 1983.

Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird, illustrated by Leslie Morrill, Delacorte, 1984.

Motown and Didi: A Love Story, Viking, 1984.

The Outside Shot, Delacorte, 1984.

Sweet Illusions, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1986.

Crystal, Viking, 1987.

Shadow of the Red Moon, Harper, 1987.

Fallen Angels, Scholastic, Inc., 1988.

Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid, Delacorte, 1988.

Scorpions, Harper, 1988.

The Mouse Rap, Harper & Row, 1990.

Now Is Your Time!: The African American Struggle for Freedom, HarperCollins, 1991.

Mop, Moondance, and the Nagasaki Knights, Delacorte Press, 1992.

A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, illustrated by Frederick Porter, Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1992.

The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, HarperCollins, 1992.

Somewhere in the Darkness, Scholastic, 1992. Young Martins Promise, Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1992.

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, Scholastic, 1993.

The Arrow Series; for children

Adventure in Granada, Viking, 1985.

The Hidden Shrine, Viking, 1985.

Ambush in the Amazon, Viking, 1986.

Duel in the Desert, Viking, 1986.

Contributor to anthologies

Orde Coombs, editor, What We Must See: Young Black Storytellers, Dodd, 1971.

Sonia Sanchez, editor, We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans, Bantam, 1973.

Sources

Books

Bishop, Rudine Sims, Presenting Walter Dean Myers, Twayne, 1990.

Black Literature Criticism, Volume 3, Gale, 1992, pp. 1469-81.

Childrens Literature Review, Volume 4, Gale, 1982.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 35, Gale, 1985.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 33: Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, Gale, 1984, pp. 199-202.

Rush, Theresa G., editor, Black American Writers: Past

and Present, Scarecrow Press, 1975.

Something About the Author, Volume 71, Gale, 1993, pp. 133-37.

Something About the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 2, Gale, 1986, pp. 143-56.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1993, section 7, p. 1.

Ebony, September 1975.

New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1986, p. 50.

Anne Janette Johnson

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"Myers, Walter Dean 1937–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 12 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Myers, Walter Dean 1937–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 12, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/myers-walter-dean-1937

"Myers, Walter Dean 1937–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/myers-walter-dean-1937

Myers, Walter Dean

Myers, Walter Dean

August 12, 1937 Martinsburg, West Virginia

Author

Walter Dean Myers is a pioneer of young adult fiction. His novels about urban teens and the challenges they face have won him both a devoted readership and dozens of book awards. His eighty-plus titles include Monster, Scorpions, and a memoir of his own youth, Bad Boy. Once thought to have been aimed at the so-called "at-risk" reader, Myers's books have stood the test of time as "poignant, tough stories for and about kids who don't appear in most storybooks," asserted Sue Corbett in a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service report. "Children whose fathers are absent or jailed. Children who share playgrounds with drug dealers and gangs. Teens struggling to maintain their dignity while living with poverty, violence and fear."

Raised by another family

Born in 1937, Myers's own early life was marked by challenges, but they were those of a different era. He was born in the midst of the Great Depression (192941), and spent the first few years of his life in a hardscrabble West Virginia town called Martinsburg. It was about ten miles away from the former plantation on which his ancestors had once toiled as slaves. His family was extremely poor, and his mother died when he was a toddler, while giving birth to another child. A married woman who had been a friend of his mother's, Florence Dean, adopted him. Such informal adoptions were not unusual during the era. Though he was christened Walter Milton Myers, he later substituted "Dean" for his middle name in honor of the foster family who raised him.

The Deans soon moved to New York City and settled in Harlem, the northern Manhattan neighborhood that was the center of black life in the city. His foster father, Herbert, worked as a janitor and also in factories, often holding down two jobs to make ends meet. Both he and his wife had little formal schooling, but Florence had taught herself to read, and she then taught her adopted son by letting him read the True Romance magazine stories she liked. He progressed to reading comic books, but a teacher discovered him with one in class at P.S. 125 one day. "She grabbed my comic book and tore it up," Myers recalled on a biography that appeared on the Scholastic Web site. "I was really upset, but then she brought in a pile of books from her own library. That was the best thing that ever happened to me." He became a bookworm, and regularly checked books out of his local librarybut he carried them home in a paper bag so that other kids would not tease him.

"I'm not interested in building ideal families in my books. I'm more attracted to reading about poorer people, and I'm more attracted to writing about them as well."

A caring community

Although Harlem would later become a violent, drug-troubled area, it was a far more balanced community when Myers was growing up there. Because neighborhoods elsewhere were not welcoming to African Americans, Harlem was home to black judges, doctors, and other professionals, as well as to ordinary working families. Myers even lived near the poet Langston Hughes (19021967). Hughes was one of the leading names of the Harlem Renaissance, the flourishing of African American music, literature, and other forms of art that began in the 1920s. Myers once spied the famous writer sitting on his front steps "drinking beer, but I didn't think much of him," he told Jennifer M. Brown in a Publishers Weekly interview. "He didn't fit my stereotype of what serious writers should be. He wasn't writing about Venice."

Major Works by Myers

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff (novel), Viking Press, 1975.

Mojo and the Russians (novel), Viking Press, 1977.

Hoops (novel), Delacorte Press, 1981.

Fallen Angels (novel), Scholastic, 1988.

The Great Migration: An American Story (poems; paintings by Jacob Lawrence), HarperCollins, 1993.

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary (biography), Scholastic, 1993.

The Glory Field (novel), Scholastic, 1994.

Slam! (novel), Scholastic, 1996.

Harlem: A Poem, illustrated by Christopher Myers, Scholastic, 1997.

Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom (nonfiction), Dutton, 1998.

At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England (nonfiction), Scholastic, 1999.

Monster (novel; illustrated by Christopher Myers), HarperCollins, 1999.

145th Street: Short Stories, Delacorte Press, 2000.

The Blues of Flats Brown (picture book; illustrated by Nina Laden), Holiday House, 2000.

Bad Boy: A Memoir, HarperCollins, 2001.

Handbook for Boys (novel), HarperCollins, 2002.

Myers retreated into books in part because he suffered from a speech impediment. When other kids made fun of him, he sometimes hit them. One teacher realized he could read aloud in class with little difficulty if he was reading words that he had written himself, and encouraged him to write more. Another teacher found a speech therapist for Myers, and also channeled the child's bossy nature into a role as the class leader. "He gave me permission to be a bright kid, permission to be smart," a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article by Jim Higgins quoted Myers as saying.

During his teens Myers became disillusioned over his lot in life. He continued to get into trouble at school, and realized that not many avenues would be open to him once he left high school. Even though he was a bright student, he knew there were few resources available for blacks. "My folks couldn't send me to even a free college," he told Amanda Smith in Publishers Weekly. "There were days when I didn't have clothing to wear to high school, and I just didn't go." He dropped out of Stuyvesant High School, and, on his seventeenth birthday in 1954, he enlisted in the Army. He served three years and returned to New York City to take a series of low-paying jobs. He worked in the post office, as a messenger, and as a factory interviewer for the New York State Bureau of Labor.

Entered writing contest

Myers had been writing since his school days, and had even won awards for his work. He had never thought that his short stories could provide a career for him, but in the 1960s he began to submit his work to magazines. He also found freelance work for publications like the National Enquirer. In 1968 he entered and won a competition sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children for African-American writers. His winning entry became a picture book, Where Does the Day Go? Its simple, charming plot involves a walk in the park led by a kindly African American dad; he takes along several children from different ethnic backgrounds, and all offer their various ideas about the sun, moon, and passage of time.

In the early 1970s Myers wrote several other picture books for young readers, including The Dragon Takes a Wife and How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World. He was hired at the Bobbs-Merrill publishing house, and spent seven years there learning the book business from the editorial side. He went on to earn a college degree from Empire State College. His first novel for teens, Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, was published in 1975. It came about entirely by accident, thanks to a short story he had submitted to his agent, who sent it on to an editor. The editor assumed it was a chapter in a book, and when she ran into Myers at a party she asked how the rest of the project was going. As he recalled in the interview with Smith, "I said, 'It goes like this,' and I made it up on the spot. She offered me a contract."

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff tells the story of the summer when Francis, a.k.a. "Stuff," moves to 116th Street in Harlem. He and his friends, Clyde and Sam, shoot baskets and try to steer clear of the dangers on the streets. The book became a classic of young adult fiction, praised by readers for its humor, and taught in schools for its message about self-esteem and community. Myers found a steady market for his novels after that, and began publishing one every year. His 1979 title The Young Landlords, about a group of teens who are given an apartment building to manage on their own, was the first of his works to win a Coretta Scott King Award from the American Library Association. The annual honor is given to the top book for young readers by an African American author.

Teen titles won devoted audience

Myers would win the King award several more times for other books. Motown and Didi: A Love Story was the next to earn the honor. The 1985 novel is set in Harlem, where Didi and her boyfriend, Motown, fall in love. He wants to find a good job, while Didi hopes to go to college, but their more immediate goal is to keep her brother out of trouble and away from the local drug kingpin.

Four years later, Myers won again for Fallen Angels, about a Harlem teen who enlists in the Army during the Vietnam War (195475). Myers called upon his own recollections of military service to write it, but the work was really written in honor of his younger brother, Sonny, who followed in Myers's footsteps and enlisted in the Army in 1968. Sonny was sent to Southeast Asia at the height of American involvement in the Vietnam conflict, and was killed in combat on his first day. Like most of Myers's works, it became a staple on school and public library bookshelves. Years later, he said the best letter he ever received from a reader was from a young man who had wanted to enlist in the military because of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. "He was so excited he couldn't wait until he turned 17 to join up," Myers recalled in the interview with Smith. "He read my book and changed his mind."

Scorpions, which also appeared in 1988, recounts the story of Jamal, a middle-schooler who unwisely accepts a gun when an older teen asks him to hold onto it for him. The plot was inspired by a true-life tale: Myers and his sons once played ball in their neighborhood park with another kid, who later disappeared. They later learned he was involved in a shooting. Somewhere in the Darkness, which won the King award in 1993, is a characteristic Myers tale, both in its challenging fictional premise and in the compelling story the author weaves around it. This novel involves Jimmy Little, who lives in Harlem with his foster family. His father, Crab, has just been released from prison, and arrives to take Jimmy on a road trip. On their journey down South, Jimmy begins to realize his father is fatally ill and wants to clear his name of the crime that sent him to prison.

Collector of vintage images

Myers has written historical fiction as well as his contemporary novels for young adults. He has also written poetry and compiled photo albums that feature images of African American families over the generations. Myers collects these historical photos from rare book dealers and antiques stores during his book tours across the United States. One of these works is One More River to Cross: An African-American Photograph Album, which depicts families' journeys, from the slavery era to the migration to northern cities in the early years of the twentieth century. The idea for these books, Myers said, came when he was teaching writing to youngsters in a Jersey City elementary school near his home. As an assignment, he had them bring in images of their grandparents when they were children. "The kids loved the photographs," he explained to Brown. "They wanted to learn why their grandparents would wear those kinds [of] clothes, shoes, what kind of house they lived in."

Myers has worked with his son, Christopher, who illustrated Harlem: A Poem, another Coretta Scott King award-winner. His 1999 novel Monster won that award, as well as the Michael L. Printz Award, another honor from the American Library Association. Monster recounts the terrible chain of events that lands sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon on trial for murder. Steve, who comes from a stable household and had hoped to become a filmmaker, was asked by some tougher kids in his neighborhood to serve as lookout during a store robbery. The owner is killed, and the teens are arrested. Myers spares no detail when describing Steve's fear of being preyed upon by the veteran teen criminals with whom he is housed. Patty Campbell, in a review for Horn Book, compared Myers's latest work to the classics Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and others. She asserted that Myers's "stunning new novel ... joins these landmark books. Looking backward, Monster is the peak achievement of a career that has paralleled the growth of the genre."

Myers has written dozens of books over the years, including biographies of Malcolm X (19251965) and Muhammad Ali (1942). He finally chronicled his own fascinating life story in Bad Boy: A Memoir, which appeared in 2002. He dedicated it to the sixth-grade teacher who found him professional help for his speech difficulty. Myers writes of his teen years in Harlem, and his flirtations with the criminal element, but also details his path to becoming a successful author. His story is all the more remarkable when he reveals that his foster father never learned to reada discovery Myers made only after the man died. "Sometimes my father would have me read something to him," Myers wrote in his autobiography, "telling me it was because of his weak eyes." Many years later, when his father was dying, Myers gave him a book on which he and his son had collaborated, but his father never commented on it. "After his death, I went through his papers and saw the childlike scrawl that he used to fill out forms, and the misunderstandings he had of those forms.... Other correspondence indicated that his business affairs were being supervised by a friend at his job. It was then I realized that he had never commented on any of my books because he couldn't read them"

For More Information

Periodicals

Brown, Jennifer M. "Walter Dean Myers Unites Two Passions." Publishers Weekly (March 22, 1999): p. 45.

Campbell, Patty. "Monster. " Horn Book (January 2000): p. 42.

Corbett, Sue. "Walter Dean Myers Has Been Writing Poignant, Tough Stories for and About At-Risk Kids." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (January 26, 2000): p. K6508.

Gallo, Don. "A Man of Many Ideas: Walter Dean Myers." Writing! (February-March 2004): p. 10.

Higgins, Jim. "Former 'Bad Boy' Taps into Youths' Minds, Struggles." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (May 26, 2002): p. 1.

McElmeel, Sharron L. "A Profile: Walter Dean Myers." Book Report (September-October 2001): p. 42.

Smith, Amanda. "Walter Dean Myers: This Award-Winning Author for Young People Tells It Like It Is." Publishers Weekly (July 20, 1992): p. 217.

"Somewhere in the Darkness. " Publishers Weekly (March 9, 1992): p. 58.

Web Sites

Myers, Walter Dean. "Author Studies Homepage." Scholastic Books. http://www2.scholastic.com/teachers/authorsandbooks/authorstudies/authorhome.jhtml?authorID=67&collateralID=5250&displayName=Biography (accessed on July 15, 2004).

Cite this article
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"Myers, Walter Dean." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 12 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Myers, Walter Dean." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 12, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/myers-walter-dean

"Myers, Walter Dean." UXL Newsmakers. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/myers-walter-dean