I learned that Walter Dean Myers passed away yesterday, July 2nd. A prolific author of children’s and young adult books, an award winning author, Myers was the voice for the young African American male. He will surely be missed by many.
Thanks to Chery Hudson, who posted an excerpt from his 2009 Arbuthnot Lecture at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Alex Haley Farm. He wrote about the “Geography of the Heart.”
I want my readers to come to me, but I am willing to make the journey to where they are. I will appreciate the valleys of their lives, and the mountains. I will swim the rivers of their doubts and traverse the deserts of frustration they must traverse. It is not a fixed place that we must reach, but rather the common geography of the human heart.
What I am trying to do with my books is to bring familiar cultural elements into my stories while at the same time challenging my readers to expand their horizons.
I want to humanize the people I depict. I want to show them struggling, yes. To show them living within their own cultural heritage, yes. But even more I want to show them in the universal striving for love and meaning that we all experience.
I write about young men testing the boundaries of manhood and young women trying to build relationships. I write about young people abandoned as being excessive to the global economy and who have become within the United States not strangers in a strange land, but strangers in the familiar garden they should be calling home.
I need, we need to bring our young people into the fullness of America’s promise and to do that we must rediscover who they are and who we are and be prepared to make the journey with them whatever it takes. We must convince our leaders that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults and, once we convince them of that great truth, we must make them care about it. My conceit is that literature can be a small path along that journey.
Thank you Walter Dean Myers for sharing your literature with the world.