I was born on a Thursday, the 12th of August, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. My name at birth was Walter Milton Myers. For some strange reason I was given to a man named Herbert Dean who lived in Harlem. I consider it strange because I don't know why I was given away.

I was raised in Harlem by Herbert and his wife, Florence. Herbert was African American. Florence was German and Native American and wonderful and loved me very much.

As a child my life centered around the neighborhood and the 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 dropped out of high school (although now Stuyvesant High claims me as a graduate) and joined the army on my 17th birthday.

Basketball has always been a passion of mine. Sometimes at night I lie in bed thinking about games I've played. Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I had gone into the NBA (I was never good enough) or college ball.

Anyway.... I wrote well in high school and a teacher (bless her!) recognized this and also knew I was going to drop out. She advised me to keep on writing no matter what happened to me.

"It's what you do," she said.

I didn't know exactly what that meant but, years later, working on a construction job in New York, I remembered her words. I began writing at night and eventually began writing about the most difficult period of my own life, the teen years. That's what I do.

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Walter Dean Myers at 11 years old

Walter at 11

Walter Dean Myers in Harlem with his brother, Mickey

Walter and his brother Mickey grew up in Harlem

Son Chris makes a new friend in the Amazon

Christopher would one day illustrate books for his father.