Walter Dean Myers

download (4)


“I was born on a Thursday, the 12th of August, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. My name at birth was Walter Milton Myers. I was about two years old when my mother died and then I was inexplicably given to Florence and Herbert Dean. I was raised in Harlem by Herbert, who was African-American and Florence, who was German and Native American and wonderful. They loved me very much and I grew to love Harlem.

Walter and his brother Mickey grew up in Harlem
Walter and his brother Mickey grew up in Harlem

As a child, my life revolved around my neighborhood and church. The neighborhood protected me and the church guided me. I resisted as much as I could. I was smart (all kids are smart) but didn’t do that well in school. I had a speech impediment and often found myself leading with my fists when teased.

I found solace in books. My mother read to me from a very young age. From my comfortable perch on her lap, I would watch as she moved her finger slowly across the page and I’d imagine the characters. Reading pushed me to discover worlds beyond my landscape, especially during dark times when my uncle was murdered and my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief.

I wrote well in high school and an English teacher (bless her!) recognized this and advised me to keep on writing no matter what happened to me. “It’s what you do,” she said. I ended up dropping out of high school (although now Stuyvesant High claims me as a graduate) and joined the army on my 17th birthday.

Christopher would one day illustrate books for his father.
Christopher would one day illustrate books for his father.

After the army, I was struggling through life—holding on just enough to survive. Remembering my high school teacher’s words, I began writing at night. I wrote short columns for a local tabloid and stories for men’s magazines.--from his website

To learn more about Walter Dean Myers, visit his website:

For a list of his books:

To see an interview with Walter Dean Myers and his son, author and illustrator, Christopher Myers: