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Biography Walter Dean Myers

2012-2013 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

Walter Dean Myers, 2012-13 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Photo credit: Shawn Miller, Library of Congress.

Walter Dean Myers, 2012-2013 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, was the third writer to hold this position. During his two-year term, Myers traveled across America to promote his platform, “Reading is Not Optional.”

Myers (1937-2014) was a critically acclaimed author of books for young people, writing more than one hundred works during his 45-year writing career. His award-winning body of work includes Sunrise Over Fallujah, Fallen Angels, Monster, Somewhere in the Darkness, and Harlem. Myers received two Newbery Honor Awards, five Coretta Scott King Awards, and was the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, given by the American Library Association. He was also the first recipient of Kent State University’s Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2008, he won the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award, and in 2010, received the Rutgers University Award for Young Adults from the New Jersey Center for the Book and the Rutgers School of Communications.

Myers’ last published work, an opinion piece written for The New York Times in March 2014, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” discusses the importance of representation of African Americans in young people’s literature. He noted that the young readers of his own works are “struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are. It is the shock of recognition at its highest level.”

Walter Dean Myers was born in Martinsburg, WV, grew up in Harlem, NY, and lived in Jersey City, NJ until his death. 

Myers was preceded as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Jon Scieszka (2008–9) and Katherine Paterson (2010–11).

Selected Works at the Library of Congress