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Walter Dean Myers was a prolific author of young adult literature who won numerous awards for his craft. The Harlem native was born August 12, 1937 in Martinsburg, W. Va.

After the passing of his mother, Myers was raised by the first wife of his biological father and her husband, and was raised in New York. Myers lived a troubled childhood and was a poor student due to a speech impediment, using his fists over his words to settle disputes. However, a teacher encouraged his writing ability and told him to focus on the talent despite the other failings of his life.

After a stint in the Army, the high school dropout began writing for men’s magazines at night while working construction and odd jobs during the day. The hard work began to pay off when in 1969, Myers won a “Writers Digest” contest that centered Black youth in the story and his career took off. With an initial focus on young children, Myers then began crafting tales for young adults, using his own life experiences and his travels as inspiration.

Myers eventually published over 100 books of all sorts, including non-fiction, picture books, and short stories among them. He won the Coretta Scott King Award, given by the American Library Association five times. Myers also won the Margaret Edwards Award from the ALA as well for his work in teen fiction and literature.

Using his platform, Myers called for more diversity in young adult literature, pushing to see more Black voices and characters. A grant from the We Need Diverse Books organization is named after Myers due to this desire.

Myers passed in 2014.