Biography of Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers was born in 1937 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. His mother died while giving birth to his younger sister, and afterwards, Myers went to live with Florence and Herbert Dean in Harlem, New York. Florence Dean, Myers's foster mother, was actually the first wife of Myers’s biological father. Myers had fond memories of his childhood, during which he spent a lot of time with his family and at church. However, he suffered from a speech impediment that made verbal communication difficult. Myers eventually turned to poetry as a way to express his emotions.

By the time he reached high school, Myers had fallen in love with literature. However, he realized that his family could not afford to send him to college and dropped out of high school at the age of fifteen. From that point on, Myers spent all his spare time reading and writing in parks and libraries. When he was seventeen, he enlisted in the army and was deployed to Vietnam, where his brother was killed. After returning from Vietnam, Myers worked in several factories. He also worked in the post office, on construction sites, and in clerical positions. He continued to write as much as he could. Myers was published for the first time when he was 22, but his career really took off in 1968 when his novel Where Does the Day Go? won the Council on Interracial Books for Children Award.

Myers was one of America's most celebrated young adult authors. He wrote over 85 books during his career. He won the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors five times, as well as numerous other literary awards. In addition to his impressive body of work, Myers also visited prisons, schools, and juvenile detention centers to speak to students, teachers, and librarians. Myers passed away on July 1, 2014 at the age of 76. He is survived by his wife, two sons, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


Study Guides on Works by Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers's novel Fallen Angels was published in 1988. The novel is based on the author's own experiences as a young American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War lasted from 1959 to 1973, but the United States had the most...

When people hear about someone who has committed a particularly heinous crime, there is a natural tendency to wonder what happened to that once completely innocent young child to turn that person into a monster. Walter Dean Myers poses that...