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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 4: Research and Discovery - An Na, Edwidge Danticat, Laurence Yep, and more
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
An Na
Biography
Work
Edwidge Danticat
Biography
Work
Interview
Pam Munoz Ryan
Biography
Work
Walter Dean Myers
Biography
Work
Laurence Yep
Biography
Work
Interview
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Photo by: Constance Myers
Authors and Literary Works
Biography

Born in West Virginia in 1937, Walter Dean Myers spent most of his boyhood in Harlem. His mother died when he was two, and his father was forced to give him up to foster parents. Myers writes, "From my foster parents, the Deans, I received the love that was ultimately to strengthen me, even when I had forgotten its source. It was my foster mother, a half-Indian, half-German woman, who taught me to read, though she herself was barely literate." A good student, Myers had a severe speech difficulty that gave him great trouble in school. A teacher who saw that he was having trouble expressing himself in speech suggested that he start writing stories about himself instead, and Myers's life as a writer began this way at age nine.

From an accelerated junior high program, Myers went on to one of New York's most prestigious public schools -- Amsterdam High School -- where he encountered a teacher who told him he was a gifted writer and steered him to the books of Emile Zola and Thomas Mann. He thought that his family's finances ruled out college, and his life took a negative turn. His poetry reflected despair and he fell into the gang culture.

In 1954, Myers dropped out of school and entered the army. After his release, he worked at odd jobs, married and divorced, wrote everything from adventure stories to advertising copy, and attended City College of New York and a writer's workshop at Columbia University that led to an editorial job at a publishing company. (Myers would finally receive a B.A., much later, from Empire State College.) It wasn't until he won a contest for black writers that he published his first book, Where Does the Day Go? Writing for young adults, he says, "changed my life... The young adult and middle grade periods of my life were so vivid and, in looking back, so influential in how I would live the rest of my life, that I am drawn to [them] over and over again."

The prolific Walter Dean Myers has written more than 50 books for children and young adults. His work encompasses historical fiction, adventure and fantasy, poetry, mysteries, biography and other nonfiction, and picture books. "I want to bring values to those who have not been valued," he writes, "and I want to etch those values in terms of the ideal. Young people need ideals which identify them, and their lives, as central ... guideposts which tell them what they can be, should be, and indeed are."

Myers is the first winner of the Michael L. Printz award for his acclaimed book Monster, and has been a National Book Award Finalist, a Coretta Scott King Honor recipient, and a winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. His books have been on the American Library Association (ALA) Notable Children's Books List, and many have also been on the ALA Best Books for Young Adults List. He has had works named Newbery Honor Book and Caldecott Honor Book, among still other awards. Myers was twice given National Endowment of the Arts grants.

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