Walter Dean Myers, 1937-2014
Posted by: Gillian Engberg
Booklist columnist Michael Cart shared the following tribute to the late National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:
A giant of young adult literature has left us. Walter Dean Myers, prolific author of more than 100 books in a variety of forms and genres, was 76 at the time of his death, following a short illness, on July 1, 2014. The enduring excellence of his writing was evidenced by the many awards and honors he received during the course of his 45-year career. Perhaps most prominent among them was the Michael L. Printz Award. Walter was the first recipient of this prestigious prize when his memorable book Monster copped the honor in 2000. At the time, I remember thinking that YALSA could not have chosen a better first recipient, for his paradigmatic work epitomized the very best in young adult literature.
I first met Walter in the mid-1980s, when I interviewed him for “In Print,” the cable television book program I was then hosting and co-producing. I found him to be soft-spoken and wonderfully eloquent when we talked about the body of his work. I would meet him many times over the years and always found him to be gracious and approachable, qualities he always brought to his meetings with teens, too, including those who were incarcerated. In a time when diversity is an essential constituent of young adult literature, Walter was notable for giving faces to young people of color, celebrating their lives and his beloved 145th street in Harlem. “If we do not write about all of our children,” Walter said in his 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award acceptance speech, “write about them with hard truths and a harder compassion, then we have, in a very significant way, failed our own futures.”
Reflecting on his career, on the future and on his legacy, Walter wrote in Don Gallo’s Speaking for Ourselves, “I would like to be remembered as giving something back to the world.”
There is absolutely no question that he will be.