He was born in West Virginia, where his forbears were once slaves. His mother died when he was a little boy and the children in his family were scattered in different directions by the tragedy. He was taken in by a family in Harlem, where he grew up in the 1940s. Frustrated by teachers and books that he couldn’t relate to, he dropped out of high school and joined the army where he trained in the south in the 1950s and endured racial abuse.
His father was a janitor during the day and a dockworker at night: He was a hard worker and role model, but he never learned to read or write, so he never was able to truly appreciate the literary accomplishments of his son, Walter Dean Myers. Even so, Walter credits his dad for inspiring his own discipline and drive to achieve. And what achievements he can point to and celebrate!
Walter is the author of some eighty books, a widely respected author of young adult novels, and served as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Many of his young adult novels focus on the urban environment and inner city life with all its dangers and disadvantages — with themes and historical backdrops that his readers know well and can connect with.
At a time when many people have retired, he and a colleague collaborated over five years to present reading and writing workshops for teachers and students, with the goal of igniting an appreciation for words as a pathway to their hopes and dreams. More than 70, Walter still gets up early in the morning and writes every day. He and his wife spend up to six months a year in London doing research and enjoying the city’s rich culture.
What an inspiring story! Walter endured and broken family and left high school but educated himself and found his calling. He’s created a rewarding life for himself and his family doing work that he loves. He’s built a body of work that’s admired and widely read. He’s helped shape the lives of both teachers and students by sharing his love of the written word and his strong belief in the power of literacy. And he and his wife have the freedom to split their time between America and England. Living a life that you love — and giving back. What bigger success can there be than this? Bravo, Walter! Write on!