Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers
Another quick book that I read this summer was “Bad Boy: A Memoir” by Walter Dean Myers. Myers is a well-known (and well-loved) author of young adult fiction and has written several books that are popular here at COHS including “Monster,” “Fallen Angels,” and “Slam!” “Bad Boy” is the story of Meyers’ childhood and young adult years. It’s a good, quick read for anyone with a biography assignment or anyone just interested in the author of some of their favorite books.
Myers grew up in Harlem in the 1940s. His memoir gives us a sense of place and how much Harlem meant to Meyers as a boy. His upbringing is unusual: though his parents are alive, he is adopted by the ex-wife of his father and her husband—the Deans—when he is just a small child. “Mama” read to him daily, and this was the seed of Myers’ love of reading and writing.
Though his experiences as a child are limited, as Myers grows and sees more of the world outside Harlem, he experiences racism. In addition, he has a speech impediment, and because he is often teased, he fights on a regular basis. His friendship with a white boy falls apart as they grow old enough to go to clubs where Myers is not allowed because of his race. Though Myers is a gifted child and attends an accelerated junior high, by high school he is frequently truant. He cannot reconcile himself the fact that he is receiving a good education just to be a manual laborer. Some of his classmates are applying to colleges that, again, are closed to Myers because of his race.
Thank goodness Myers finally found his writing voice and listened to an English teacher who told him, “Whatever happens, don’t stop writing.”