Walter Dean Myers

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Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers 2001 Bookfest screen grab.jpg
Myers at the Library of Congress in 2001
Born Walter Milton Myers
(1937-08-12)August 12, 1937
Martinsburg, West Virginia, U.S.
Died July 1, 2014(2014-07-01) (aged 76)
Manhattan, New York City
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Period 1969–2014
Genre Young adult novels, nonfiction, poetry
Notable works
Notable awards Margaret Edwards Award
Michael L. Printz Award

Walter Dean Myers (born Walter Milton Myers; August 12, 1937 – July 1, 2014) was an American writer of children's books best known for young adult literature. He wrote more than one hundred books including picture books and nonfiction. He won the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors five times.[1] His 1988 novel Fallen Angels is one of the books most frequently challenged in the U.S. because of its adult language and its realistic depiction of the Vietnam War.

Myers was the third U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, serving 2012 and 2013.[2] He also sat on the Board of Advisors of the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators (SCBWI).


Walter Milton Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia. After his mother died while giving birth to his younger sister, Myers was given over to Florence Dean, the first wife of his biological father George Myers. Dean raised him in Harlem, New York City, and Myers later took "Dean" as his middle name in honor of his foster parents Florence and Herbert.[3] Herbert Dean was an African-American man and his wife was a part-German and part-Native American woman who taught English at the local high school. Myers' life as a child centered on the neighborhood and the church. The neighborhood protected him and the church guided him. He was smart but did not do that well in school.[4] Suffering from a speech impediment, he cultivated the habit of writing poetry and short stories and acquired an early love of reading.[5] Myers attended Public School 125 on Lasalle Street, before dropping out (although Stuyvesant High School now claims him as a graduate) and joining the U.S. Army on his 17th birthday.[6]

Myers wrote well in high school, which one of his teachers recognized. She also suspected that he would drop out and advised him to keep writing no matter what happened. He did not exactly understand what that meant but years later, while working on a construction job in Chicago, he remembered her words.[3][4] Myers would write at night, soon writing about his difficult teenage years. When asked what he valued most, he replied, "My books. They were my only real friends growing up."

Myers lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.[7] His family includes his wife; son, author and illustrator Christopher Myers; son, Michael; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A daughter, Karen, predeceased him.[8]

Myers received the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1994 for his contribution in writing for teens.[9] For his lifetime contribution as a children's writer he was U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010.[10]

For the years 2012 and 2013 Myers was the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by appointment of the Library of Congress, a two-year position created to raise national awareness of the importance of lifelong literacy and education.[2]

The ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Myers won the annual award in 1994, citing four books published from 1983 to 1988: Hoops (1983), Motown and Didi (1985), Fallen Angels (1988), and Scorpions (1988). The young-adult librarians observed that "these books authentically portray African-American youth, but their appeal is not limited to any particular ethnic group. The writing of Walter Dean Myers illustrates the universality of the teenage experience in urban America."[9] He was a two-time runner-up for the annual Newbery Medal, recognizing the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children", in 1989 for The Scorpion and in 1993 for Somewhere in the Darkness.[11] The ALA split the Newbery several years later, establishing the Michael L. Printz Award for young-adult literature. Myers was the inaugural winner for Monster (HarperCollins, 1999), which was thereby designated the year's "best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit".[7][12]

Myers first published book was a contest winner: Where Does the Day Go?, written by Myers and illustrated by Leo Carty (Parents Magazine Press, 1969). It won a Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1968.[5]

Myers was a finalist for the for Young People's Literature: in 1999 for Monster, in 2005 for Autobiography of My Dead Brother, and in 2010 for Lockdown.[7] Myers is mentioned in Sharon Creech's 2001 poetic novella Love That Dog, in which a young boy admires Myers and invites him to visit his class.

On July 1, 2014, Myers died at Beth Israel Medical Center in Midtown Manhattan[13] after a brief illness.[14][15] His last written work was an op-ed for The New York Times, "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?" in which he calls for a more complete representation of African Americans in children's literature.[16] A We Need Diverse Books grant and award were named after him.


Myers in 2013
  • The Life of a Harlem Man, illustrated by Gene Riarti (Parents Magazine Press, 1968)
  • Where Does a Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty (Parents Magazine, 1968)
  • The Dancers, illustrated by Anne Rockwell (Parents Magazine, 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 Press, 1975)
  • Social Welfare (Franklin Watts, 1976)
  • Victory for Jamie (Scholastic Books, 1977)
  • Mojo and the Russians (Viking, 1977)
  • Brainstorm, illustrated with photographs by Chuck Freedman (Franklin Watts, 1977)
  • It Ain't All for Nothin' (Viking, 1978)
  • The Young Landlords (Viking, 1979) – a group of kids take over an apartment building and struggle to maintain it.
  • The Golden Serpent, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen (Viking, 1980)
  • The Black Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush (Viking, 1980). Mindless Behavior
  • The Legend of Tarik (Viking, 1981)
  • Hoops (Delacorte Press, 1981) – a promising basketball player tries not to end up like his former pro-playing coach
  • Won't Know Till I Get There (Viking, 1982) – a 14-year-old boy, his newly adopted brother, and his friends are forced to work in a retirement home
  • Tales of a Dead King (William Morrow and Company, 1983)
  • The Nicholas Factor (Viking, 1983)
  • Motown and Didi: A Love Story (Viking, 1984) – a young couple's romance, and their struggle living in Harlem.
  • Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird, illustrated by Leslie Morrill (Delacorte, 1984)
  • The Outside Shot (Delacorte, 1984) – a talented Harlem basketball player goes to college to play
  • Crystal (1987) – centers on a girl attempting to navigate as a young fashion model
  • Fallen Angels (1988) – about young men in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War
  • Scorpions (1990) – a 12-year-old is asked to lead his brother's gang
  • The Mouse Rap (1990) – a 14-year-old is determined to find the loot from a 1930s bank heist
  • Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom (1992)
  • The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner (1994) – a 12-year-old boy goes after a man that murdered his uncle
  • Darnell Rock Reporting (1994) – a 13-year-old boy joins the school newspaper
  • Malcolm X – By Any Means Necessary (1994)
  • The Glory Field (1994) – a family's account of their struggle in America from the 18th century to the 1990s
  • Shadow of the Red Moon (1995)
  • Slam (1998) – a young black teen with an attitude problem deals with life on and off the basketball court
  • Monster (1999) – a 16-year-old black boy is charged with murder
  • We Were Heroes: The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins – a World War II Soldier, Normandy, France, 1944 (1999)– featuring the invasion of Normandy
  • 145th Street: Short Stories (2001)
  • Greatest: Muhammad Ali (2001)
  • Bad Boy; A Memoir (2001) – Myers' life as a young boy growing up in 1940s Harlem (part of the Amistad Series)
  • Handbook for Boys: A Novel (2003)
  • Somewhere in the Darkness (2003) – a young boy travels to Arkansas with a father who did not raise him
  • Thanks & Giving: All year long (2004)
  • Shooter (2004) – two friends of a school shooter give an account of him to the police
  • The Beast (2003) – a 17-year-old boy comes back to his home in Harlem from his boarding school to find that the girl he loves is using drugs
  • Autobiography of My Dead Brother (1998) – a 14-year-old boy copes with life in Harlem by drawing
  • Street Love (2006) – poetic novel of a romance in Harlem
  • What They Found: Love on 145th Street (2007)
  • Harlem Summer (2007)
  • Game (2008)
  • Jazz, illustrated by Christopher Myers (Holiday House, 2008)
  • Sunrise Over Fallujah (2008) – follows a young U.S. soldier's experience during the 2003 invasion of Iraq; sequel to Fallen Angels
  • Dopesick (2009) – a teenager kills a policeman, and must contemplate his future
  • Riot (2009) – fictional account of the New York Draft Riots in 1863, during the American Civil War, by the 15-year-old daughter of a black man and an Irish immigrant
  • Amiri & Odette (2009) – the classic Swan Lake ballet recast in hip-hop verse
  • Lockdown (2010)
  • Kick (2011), by Myers and Ross Workman
  • The Cruisers (2011)
  • We Were Heroes: The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins, a World War II Soldier (2011)
  • All the Right Stuff (2012) – a basketball-loving teenager finds summer work at a soup kitchen, where he interacts with someone who changes how he thinks about life
  • The Cruisers Checkmate (2012)
  • The Cruisers Book 3 A Star is Born (2012)
  • Darius & Twig (2013)
  • Invasion (2013) – prequel to Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah
  • Juba! (2015) – a fictionalized history of William Henry Lane, a.k.a. Master Juba, a dancer who lived in the mid 1800s in New York City and London
  • Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History (2017)


  1. ^ "Coretta Scott King Book Award Recipients: Current and Past". Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). ALA. 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Corbett, Sue (January 3, 2012). "Walter Dean Myers Named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Meet the Author: Walter Dean Myers". Houghton Mifflin Reading. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Biography". 
  5. ^ a b Marilyn Fischer; et al. "Learning About Walter Dean Myers". Kay E. Vandergrift's Special Interest Page. Rutgers School of Communication and Information. Retrieved May 26, 2011. .
  6. ^ Novak, Terry (January 24, 2002). "Walter Dean Myers". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c "2010 National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature: Walter Dean Myers". National Book Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ Lee, Felicia R. "Author". Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "1994 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA).
      "Edwards Award". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  10. ^ "2010 HCA Winners and Finalists". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". IBBY. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  11. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). ALA.
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  12. ^ "2000 Printz Award". YALSA. ALA.
     "Printz Award". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  13. ^ Associated Press, "Walter Dean Myers, best-selling children's author, dead at 76", Daily News (New York), July 2, 2014.
  14. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 2, 2012). "Walter Dean Myers, Prolific and Beloved Author of Award-Winning Children's Books, Dies at Age 76". School Library Journal. Retrieved July 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Walter Dean Myers, Prolific and Beloved Author of Award-Winning Children's Books, Dies at Age 76". [U.S. press release 406; no date]. HarperCollins Publishers (
  16. ^ Meyers, Walter Dean (15 March 2014). "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?". The New York Times. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Walter Dean Myers at Houghton Mifflin Reading
  • Walter Dean Myers at Scholastic Teachers
  • Interview by Public School Insights (print) posted January 31, 2009 – about his book "Dope Sick" and its themes of personal responsibility and redemption
  • "Reading is not Optional", keynote address by Myers (audio-video recording) at the 2012 Hudson Children's Book Festival
  • Walter Dean Myers at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Walter Dean Myers at Library of Congress Authorities, with 127 catalog records
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