Authors: Walter Dean Myers

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and historian

Identity: African American

Author Works

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Where Does the Day Go?, 1969

The Dancers, 1972

The Dragon Takes a Wife, 1972

Fly, Jimmy, Fly!, 1974

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, 1975

The World of Work: A Guide to Choosing a Career, 1975

Social Welfare, 1976

Brainstorm, 1977

Mojo and the Russians, 1977

Victory for Jamie, 1977

It Ain’t All for Nothin’, 1978

The Young Landlords, 1979

The Black Pearl and the Ghost: Or, One Mystery After Another, 1980

The Golden Serpent, 1980

Hoops, 1981

The Legend of Tarik, 1981

Won’t Know Till I Get There, 1982

The Nicholas Factor, 1983

Tales of a Dead King, 1983

Motown and Didi: A Love Story, 1984

Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird, 1984

The Outside Shot, 1984

Sweet Illusions, 1987

Crystal, 1987

Fallen Angels, 1988

Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid, 1988

Scorpions, 1988

The Mouse Rap, 1990

Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom, 1991

Mop, Moondance, and the Nagasaki Knights, 1992

The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, 1992

Somewhere in the Darkness, 1992

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse, 1993 (poetry)

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, 1993

A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam, 1993

Young Martin’s Promise, 1993

Darnell Rock Reporting, 1994

The Glory Field, 1994

Glorious Angels: A Celebration of Children, 1995 (poetry)

One More River to Cross: An African-American Photograph Album, 1995

Shadow of the Red Moon, 1995

The Story of the Three Kingdoms, 1995

How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World, 1996

Slam!, 1996

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

Toussaint L’Ouverture: The Fight for Haiti’s Freedom, 1996

Harlem, 1997

Amistad: A Long Road of Freedom, 1998

Angel to Angel: A Mother’s Gift of Love, 1998

At Her Majesty’s Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, 1999

The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A WWII Soldier, 1999

The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy, 1999

The Blues of Flat Brown, 2000

145th Street, 2000 (short stories)

Bad Boy: A Memoir, 2001

The Journal of Biddy Owens: The Negro Leagues, 2001

Three Swords for Granada, 2002

Biography

Walter Milton Myers was born in West Virginia but spent most of his childhood and teen years in the Harlem section of New York City. His mother, Mary Meyers, died giving birth when he was two years old. The sixth of seven children, he was fostered to the Harlem home of his father’s first wife, Florence Dean, and her second husband, Herbert. Myers considers the Deans to be his true parents and writes under the name Walter Dean Myers to honor them. He used the concept of surrogate parenting in his novels Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid and Won’t Know Till I Get There.{$I[A]Myers, Walter Dean}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Myers, Walter Dean}{$I[geo]AFRICAN AMERICAN/AFRICAN DESCENT;Myers, Walter Dean}{$I[tim]1937;Myers, Walter Dean}

Myers learned to read when he was four from his foster mother’s True Romance magazines and classic comics. He began writing poetry when he was in the fifth grade and continued writing poetry and prose during his junior high and high school years. He dates his love of reading from the time his fifth-grade teacher caught him reading a comic book during class and gave him East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a collection of Norwegian folk tales. His life outside school centered on his church, which had a gym in the basement that became a model for the church gym in Hoops. His novels Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff; Mojo and the Russians; and The Young Landlords describe the Harlem of his childhood.

As a teenager, Myers became a petty criminal, as he reveals in Bad Boy, his autobiography, and used an incident in which he interfered in a gang fight in Motown and Didi. In 1954 he joined the Army after failing to graduate from high school and only a few weeks before the police came to his house to arrest him. His Army experience provided him with background information for his Vietnam novel Fallen Angels. After his discharge, he held several low paying jobs, including working at the post office, where he met his first wife. He used that experience in The Dragon Takes a Wife. During this time, Myers became a professional writer and wrote articles and stories for the magazines The Liberator, Black Digest, The Black Scholar, Ebony, Black World, Black Creation, Blue Book, Male, Argosy, Cavalier, and Essence and the tabloids The National Enquirer and The Star. His short story “The Fare to Crown Point” appeared in the anthology What We Must See: Young Black Story-tellers.

Myers broke into children’s literature in 1969 when he won a contest run by the Council on Interracial Books for Children with his story Where Does the Day Go? In 1970, he became an editor with the Bobbs-Merrill Company. After the publisher laid him off in 1977, he used his severance pay to make the transition to full-time author. Since then he has supported himself and his family by writing. Although he never graduated from high school, he received a bachelor’s degree from Empire State College in 1984.

Richard Perry in Fallen Angels is Myers’s most autobiographical character. Not only did Perry grow up in New York, like Myers, but he attended Stuyvesant High School as well. Both had already developed ambitions to write when they joined the Army at age seventeen and were stationed at Fort Devens, where they both played basketball. The difference is that Myers never saw combat and went from Fort Devens to a base in the Arctic, while Perry joined an infantry platoon in Vietnam.

Myers has won the Coretta Scott King Award and the Newbery Medal. Five of his books have been chosen as the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and two others have been named American Library Association Notable Books. In 1994 he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, a lifetime achievement award for writing, and the ALAN Award for his contribution to the field of young adult literature.

BibliographyBishop, Rudine Sims. Presenting Walter Dean Myers. Boston: Twayne, 1991. This is a critical review of Myers’s work up to 1990.Donelson, Kenneth, and Aleen Pace Nilsen. Literature for Today’s Young Adults. 5th ed. New York: Longman, 1997. Myers is mentioned in several places in this survey of young adult literature.Jordan, Denise M. Walter Dean Myers: Writer for Real Teens. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow, 1999. Although this biography was written for juveniles, it contains useful factual information.Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Walter Dean Myers: A Literary Companion. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2006. A conveniently arranged A-Z guide to the life and novels of Myers. Includes a timeline that details the lengths to which the Myers went to research his books and a list of writing and research topics students may find helpful.
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