TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers is a writer of children's and young adult literature. Walter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia in 1937 but spent most of his childhood and young adult life in Harlem. He was raised by foster parents and remembers a happy but tumultuous life while going through his own teen years. Suffering with a speech impediment, he cultivated a habit of writing poetry and short stories and acquired an early love of reading.

In 1954 he quit high school and joined the army. He later held many positions with various agencies including the New York State Department of Labor, the post office, a rehabilitation center and a transformer company. All during this time, Mr. Myers was writing for various magazines and periodicals. The turning point in his career came when he won a contest run by the Council on Interracial Books for Children with his book Where Does a Day Go? in 1969. Since then he has supported himself, his second wife, and four children with his very prolific writing in the area of children's and young adult literature. He volunteers at schools in Jersey City where is presently lives. He received his degree from Empire State College in 1984.

Myers explains his feeling for the young adult novel, "The special place of the young adult novel should be in its ability to address the needs of the reader to understand his or her relationships with the world, with each other, and with adults. The young adult novel often allows the reader to directly identify with a protagonist of similar interests and development." He is a compassionate, introspective person who believes, "It is this language of values which I hope to bring to my books. . . . I want to bring values to those who have not been valued, and I want to etch those values in terms of the ideal. Young people need ideals which identify them, and their lives, as central . . . guideposts which tell them what they can be, should be, and indeed are."

Following his success with young adult literature, Meyer has branched out to include topics of nonfiction including black history with his recent Now Is Your Time! and The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner an 1880's historical setting. Both have been received with much acclaim.

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