The world of literature has lost an important voice with the death of Young Adult author Walter Dean Myers. Myers was known for his insightful novels, which told the stories of young African American. His books have been awarded six Newbery Honors andthree National Book Awards.

Walter Dean Myers

Myers came from a troubled past. Born in Harlem, he grew up around gang violence and was “sort of” arrested, in his own words. Myers dropped out of high school and joined the Army at 17. After his military service, remembering encouragement from a high school teacher, he picked up writing. Back then, he wrote pieces for tabloids and men’s magazines.

“A turning point for me was the discovery of a short story by James Baldwin about the black urban experience. It gave me permission to write about my own experiences,” he wrote.

"Walter's many award-winning books do not shy away from the sometimes gritty truth of growing up.... He wrote with heart and he spoke to teens in a language they understood," Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children's Books, said in a statement, quoted via The Los Angeles Times.

He recently served as the national ambassador for young people’s literature, a post appointed by the Library of Congress.