Walter Dean Myers Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Walter Dean Myers writes to instill values into young people. What values do his characters develop in his books?

How does Myers use setting to create conflict in his books?

What are some of the social, psychological, or economic obstacles that Myers’s characters overcome?

What are some of the controversial subjects explored by Myers? Why do some authorities consider these subjects unsuitable for young adults?

In what ways do good and evil and guilt and innocence motivate Myers’s characters?

How does Myers indicate the “coming of age” theme in his young adult books?

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

One of the most prolific writers of fiction for young adults in the United States, Walter Dean Myers has also made numerous forays into other genres, including children’s picture books, historical biographies intended for students at both elementary and high school levels, short stories, and poetry that celebrates not only his childhood Harlem community (as in Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices, 2004) but also such diverse topics as the heroism of African American patriots and the unique rhythms of black music (as in Blues Journey, 2003, and Jazz, 2006). Myers has collaborated with his son Christopher (as illustrator) on many of these projects, including works that defy classification, such as the uniquely formatted Street Love (2006), which tells its story of young love across class lines in short lines of free verse, and the first-person perspectives of biblical personages in A Time to Love: Stories from the Old Testament (2003). Myers has also written a series of historical informational texts on prominent African American figures and topics. Additionally, he has produced a highly acclaimed memoir of his life titled Bad Boy (2001). Certainly a multifaceted talent, Myers has produced more than seventy works that appeal to readers of all age groups and sensibilities.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Walter Dean Myers has repeatedly been cited as a sole “voice in the wilderness” for the African American youth and teenager. Myers has provided a voice for many who did not previously have one—becoming a writer for so many who have needed to see themselves represented in a literature bereft of that representation. For his unique contribution to literature, Myers has received many honors: He is a two-time Newbery Honor Book winner, for Scorpions and Somewhere in the Darkness, and has been cited five times as a Coretta Scott King Award winner, for his novels The Young Landlords, Motown and Didi, Fallen Angels, and Slam! and for the nonfiction work Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom (1991). In 1994, Myers was presented with the American Library Award for “lifetime contribution to Young Adult Literature” for four of his novels. He has also been recognized twice as a National Book Award finalist, for Monster and Autobiography of My Dead Brother. Monster was also selected as the first recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 1999. Truly a pioneer in the genre, Myers continues to create relevant and powerful stories that explore the experiences of young African Americans.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bishop, 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.