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Friday, July 4, 2014

A Fond Farewell to Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014)

Walter Dean Myers speaking at Library of Congress
Myers was the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress. 

Readers everywhere lost a gifted storyteller and literacy advocate with the passing of Walter Dean Myers on July 1. One of the first African American writers to break into the teen publishing market, Myers found inspiration for his stories from his growing up years in Harlem, NYC. In his most popular books—such as Hoops, Fallen Angels, and Sunrise over Fallujah— young people cope with and triumph over the most difficult of circumstances. Although Myers did not shy away from gritty topics, his stories were often ultimately hopeful and emphasized courage, perseverance, and character.

Myers' books earned prestigious literary awards, including the Newbery Honor Award (for Somewhere in the Darkness and Scorpions). His screenplay-style novel about a young man on trial for robbery, Monster, won the Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult Literature. Myers also wrote about Americans who inspired him; his biographies of Dr. Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali can be found at the library. To find more books by Myers, please check our library catalog and visit the display of his works in the teen area of the Olney Library.

Myers also told his own story in Bad Boy, describing the path that led him from high-school dropout to beloved author of more than 100 books. Growing up, he found solace in reading fiction and poetry, and was encouraged by a favorite high school teacher to develop his writing. Meeting venerable author James Baldwin was another turning point.  Susan Katz of HarperCollins spoke of Myers' writing gifts on the publisher’s website: “He wrote with heart, and he spoke to teens in a language they understood.” He will be missed.

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