Walter Dean Myers

(1937-2014), American

With over seventy books to his name, the mark left by Walter Dean Myers in the world of Literature is indelible.

Life Facts

  • He was born Water Milton Myers on August 12, 1937.
  • His mother died before he turned three.
  • He dropped the name Milton and adopted Dean in honor of his foster parents.
  • He got married twice, first to Joyce Dean Myers (1960-1970) and then to Constance Brendel (2014).
  • He passed on July 1, 2014, at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, New York, United States.

Interesting Facts

  • Most of Walter Dean Myers’ books were illustrated by his son, Christopher Myers.
  • He liked fish so much, it was his favorite dish.
  • London, England, was his favorite holiday destination.

Walter Dean Myers Childhood

Walter Dean Myers was born on August 12, 1937. He was named Walter Milton Myers at birth but later adopted ‘Dean’ in honor of his foster parents. Although he was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Myers grew up in Harlem, New York City, alongside his brother, Mickey. He lost his biological mother, Mary Dolly Myers, at eighteen months. At the age of three, his stepmother, Florence Dean, and her husband, Herbert Dean, took him in to raise. Florence Dean was a German and Native American English teacher. Her husband, Herbert Dean, was an African American. George Ambrose Myers was Walter Dean Myers’ biological father.

Walter Dean Myers’ life was greatly influenced by his neighborhood and church. He lashed out at those who teased him for having a speech impediment. As a child with a speech impediment, he was encouraged by his teacher to pick up writing in order to express himself better. He started writing as a coping mechanism. He wrote poems, short stories and read a lot. Sensing that he might drop out of school, his teacher, Bonnie Liebow, encouraged him to write even more. Books became his companion. He wrote about his experiences as a teenager. He attended Stuyvesant High School, a public high school on Lasselle Street, before dropping out.

On his 17th birthday, he joined the army. After that, Myers became depressed. He picked up writing once more. His discovery of James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny Blues’ (a story written by James Baldwin, inspired by his own experiences) changed his life because he then started taking writing down his experiences seriously. He started writing stories inspired by his own experiences.

Contributions to the World of Literature

With a career in writing spanning forty-five years, Myers has over seventy books (most of which are children’s and young adult books) to his name. He was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by appointment of the library in 2012 and 2013. He has books belonging to each of the three genres of literature.
Monster‘ is not his first illustrated work. His first published work: ‘Where Does the Day Go’ was illustrated. The illustrations were done by Leo Carry. This particular book won a Council on Interracial Books for Children Award in 1968. The illustrations for ‘Monster’ were done by Walter Dean Myers’ son, Christopher Myers.

Recognitions and Awards

He also received several awards for his contribution to the world of literature. Here are some of them: American Library Association Award (1994), Hans Christian Andersen Award (2010), Margaret A. Edwards Award (1994). Margaret A. Edwards Award is an award that recognizes one writer and a specific work of art for its immense contribution to young adult Literature. Here are some of Walter Dean Myers’ works that won him this award: ‘Myers Hoops’ (1983), ‘Motown and Didi’ (1985), ‘Fallen Angels’ (1988), and ‘Scorpions’ (1988). He was also an inaugural winner for ‘Monster’, published by HarperCollins in 1999 as the year’s best book for teens based on merit.

Literature by Walter Dean Myers

Explore literature by Walter Dean Myers below, created by the team at Book Analysis.