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BAD BOY by Walter Dean Myers

BAD BOY

A Memoir

By Walter Dean Myers

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: May 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-029523-6
Publisher: HarperCollins

Catalogues of books alternate with battles against educational authorities in this memoir from one of the deans of young-adult literature. Myers (The Journal of Biddy Owens, below, etc.) paints a picture of a boy in love with words, an avid reader, and later an enthusiastic writer, but also one whose quick, violent temper kept him in constant trouble. From a cozy childhood in the embrace of his foster parents to an alienated and depressed adolescence, Myers consciously sets out to identify those elements that made him what he is: a black writer of books for all children. One of the book’s strengths, no surprise, is its careful and loving depiction of Harlem’s black community, and readers familiar with Myers’s other work will recognize in many of the figures and situations he describes the inspirations for his fiction. Another is Myers’s wry commentary on his youthful actions and attitudes: when describing his spiritual uncertainty, for instance, he writes, “I wanted to hear a big voice on the phone say ‘Yea, verily, this is me, God. It’s all good, my man, and will be ultracool in the end.’ ” No life can be as tightly plotted as a novel, though, and the text sometimes moves unevenly from anecdote to unrelated (albeit interesting) anecdote, hindering a smooth narrative flow. His attempt to show how his life was constructed, moreover, results in a rather deterministic text from which one has the sense that much was left out, and his musings on the effects of institutionalized racism on his development as a young man and a writer become didactic interruptions plunked into a story which likely could speak for itself. Myers is arguably one of the most important writers of children’s books of our age, however, and this glimpse into his own childhood is wonderfully valuable, fascinating, and even inspiring. (Autobiography. 12+)