Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Walter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia into a large family. When he was three years old, his mother died. Burdened by poverty, his father sent Myers to live with foster parents in New York City. The foster parents, Herbert and Florence Dean, raised the boy in Harlem, which Myers remembers as teeming with life and excitement. Myers changed his original middle name, Milton, to Dean in honor of his foster parents.
Myers’s foster mother read to him every day until he could read for himself. Myers was a good student in the sense that he was literate, but he became known as a discipline problem in school. He had a speech impediment that prevented people from understanding what he was saying. His classmates teased him, and Myers responded with anger. He spent many days in the principal’s office or on suspension.
He received some guidance from his fifth-grade teacher, who thought that writing down words would help him with his speech problem. He filled notebooks with poems and stories but did not consider writing as a career. When not in school, Myers hung out with the street gangs and played basketball until it was too dark to see. Later in his life, the game of basketball would be a prominent feature in several of his books.
At age sixteen, Myers dropped out of school, and he joined the Army the next year. After his tour, he...
(The entire section is 403 words.)
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Harsh reality becomes the foundation for growth in Myers’s books about young people living in poverty and without hope. His characters struggle to perceive the possibilities of a positive future and to learn values such as integrity, honor, and morality in a world that marginalizes them.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Walter Dean Myers was born Walter Milton Myers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1937. His life was irrevocably altered when he lost his mother at a young age. His foster family (the Deans, whose name he adopted) moved to Harlem in New York City before his third birthday. Myers reportedly had a happy childhood, but he encountered problems in school because of a slight speech defect that hampered his pronunciation. His teachers, however, promoted and nurtured in him a love for reading and writing that fulfilled the young author-to-be.
Because the concept of actually supporting himself through writing did not occur to Myers until later, he left Stuyvesant High School at age seventeen to join the U.S. Army, in which he served from 1954 to 1957. This was an auspicious decision, as his military experience would provide the background that Myers would later use in several books, most notably Fallen Angels. After he was discharged from the Army, Myers obtained a bachelor of arts degree from Empire State College. He worked at several jobs, but the one that provided fortuitous insight for his future career was with the publishing company Bobbs-Merrill. Myers has stated that it was this experience that taught him the inner workings of the “book business” and informed him of the reality of writing—a reality that finally seemed possible to him.
The major impetus for Myers’s success in writing books was his winning of a contest for his...
(The entire section is 351 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
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.
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...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
Walter Dean Myers was born August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. When he was two years old, his mother died, leaving his father to cope with eight children. Myers and two of his sisters were taken in by Herbert and Florence Dean, who, although poor, took good care of him. In gratitude, he made Dean his middle name during the 1970s.
They lived in Harlem for most of his youth. He had a severe speech impediment that made his life difficult when he was required to speak. This may have made him somewhat shy and account for the solace he found in reading literature while still in elementary school. His love of books may also explain why he decided to be a writer. After dropping out of high school, he bounced from job to job before joining the army. Upon leaving the army, he began writing in earnest for the National Enquirer and men's magazines.
He landed a job as an editor at Bobbs-Merrill Company in 1970 and held it until 1977. While at Bobbs-Merrill, Myers quickly learned about the publishing side of professional writing and learned how to put together a book that would satisfy a publisher's needs. At first, he created picture books for small children. Then he tried his hand at writing fiction, both for young adults and for elementary school-age youngsters. Since then he has been celebrated for his books about African Americans. His success in this area, however, has tended to pigeonhole him as a writer with limited ethnic appeal,...
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Walter Dean Myers was born August 12, 1934, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Myers' mother died while he was an infant, and soon afterwards, Florence and Herbert Dean took the young Myers and two of his sisters to raise as their own. The Deans moved to Harlem when he was three years old, and Myers lived there through his young adult years.
Although the Deans were poor, Myers writes that he never experienced hunger or cold while growing up. He felt the unfairness of life, however, when he realized there was no money to send him to college. Myers dropped out of high school, but continued the high volume of reading and writing he had begun in grade school. He drifted for a few years and then, at seventeen, joined the army. Once out of the army, Myers married, started a family, and worked at various jobs in New York City. While his strong desire to write led to publications in magazines, finding an audience and market for the kind of writing he hoped to do remained a challenge.
After a divorce, Myers became a senior editor for the Bobbs-Merrill Publishing Company where he learned the business of writing first-hand. During this time he published his first picture book for children, Where Does the Day Go?? (1969), winning a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. More picture books followed—The Dancers (1972) and The Dragon Takes a Wife (1972). When he published his third picture book Fly, Jimmy,...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Walter Dean Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, August 12, 1937. When he was two years old, his mother died in childbirth. This left his father with eight children to care for, so he arranged for Florence and Herbert Dean of Harlem to take Walter. Living with the Deans meant that he would be well cared for, while Harlem provided him with rich resources of cultural experience and education.
His severe speech handicap caused him frustration, anger, and embarrassment, especially when he was required to read aloud at school. While working through this problem in speech therapy, he began to write what he wanted to say. This was the beginning of his love for writing. After reading the works of the most noted European writers and trying to imitate their style, he read works by black writers Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, which helped him to write about his own culture and experience.
In 1954 he quit high school and joined the army for three years. Later he attended City College of the City University of New York. He has worked as employment supervisor for the New York State Department of Labor and has worked for a transformer company, the post office, and a rehabilitation center. His first writing was for the National Inquirer and adventure magazines, but his career in children's books began when he entered a short story contest run by the Council on Interracial Books for Children and won five hundred dollars. From 1970 to 1977...
(The entire section is 429 words.)