Walter Dean Myers

I think I've noted here before that I've made it my mission this year to interview as many non-fiction authors as possible.

But this summer a co-worker turned me on to Walter Dean Myers, who writes mostly fiction. For kids. About wars, prison, drugs. All the good stuff I was naively (and thankfully) barely aware of in my Full House-watching youth.

I decided Myers's life-mirroring fiction would make a good addition to the non-fiction program I'm putting together for the WMNF News later this year.

Lots of us entered adulthood unprepared. Why would a kid know how to balance a checkbook if one's parent's lacked that skill? Still, many kids are even further behind in the game of life if they enter it illiterate, with a criminal record, or are dealing with heavy emotional or psychological issues.

Myers himself was raised by foster parents and dropped out of high school when he realized he was a financial burden on his impoverished family. In the first half of our interview, he spoke about his experience growing up in Harlem in the '50's and losing his kid brother on his very first day in the country of Viet Nam.

In the second half, Myers compares his slacker prep school characters from The Cruisers to those in Lockdown, about minors in the prison system.

Despite his heavy subject matter, Myers never gives us more than we can handle. In fact, he gives us, young and old, the tools to make it through.

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