Walter Dean Myers, the author of more than 100 young adult and children books, died yesterday. He was 76 years old.
“Walter’s many award-winning books do not shy away from the sometimes gritty truth of growing up,” said Susan Katz, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books. “He wrote books for the reader he once was, books he wanted to read when he was a teen. He wrote with heart and he spoke to teens in a language they understood. For these reasons, and more, his work will live on for a long, long time,”
“Fallen Angel,” “Lockdown,” and the 1999 New York Times bestseller “Monster,” are a few examples of Myers depictions of young African Americans grappling with issues like incarceration, war, and coming of age through literature. He wrote books about the most difficult time in his own life—his teenage years—for the reader he once was; these were the books that he wished were available when he was that age.
Myers was born in West Virginia but raised by foster parents in Harlem after the death of his mother. Walter wrote well in high school and one teacher, who recognized his talent but also knew he was going to drop out, told him to keep on writing, no matter what—”It’s what you do,” she said. Myers did drop out of high school and at the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the Army. Years later, after his safe return home and while working a construction job, Walter would remember this teacher’s advice. He started writing again, and he didn’t stop.
Throughout the 45 years of his career, he has received wide-ranging acclaim. He was the recipient of two Newbery Honor Books, three National Book Award Finalists, and six Coretta Scott King Award/Honor-winning books. He was also the winner of the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.
In 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, serving a two-year tenure in the position.
Walter lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his wife Constance. He is survived by Constance, as well as his two sons, Christopher and Michael Dean. He was predeceased by his daughter, Karen.