“I think that if we can’t go back, then we should try even harder to go forward”

I am stunned at the news that Walter Dean Myers has passed.

Walter Dean Myers changed the shape of young adult literature. He was the first winner of the Printz Award and won the Coretta Scott King Medal five times.

Walter Dean Myers changed the shape of Black children’s and young adult literature. His work was groundbreaking in so many ways, giving young people portraits that reflected their lives.

As a friend on Twitter said, “We are all better librarians because we have the pleasure and honor of being able to hand Walter Dean Myers books to our patrons.”

There are kids whose lives will be affected that we will not get to see the 15 or so books Myers thought he still had in him when I met him last year. There are kids whose lives will be affected by the fact that they will not hear Myers—someone who looks like them and who has lived a life like theirs—say that “reading is not optional.” That is an incomparable loss.

Mr. Myers was one of the most gracious men I have ever met. One of the most widely known names in YA literature had nothing but kind words when I picked him up from the local high school, walked him across the street to my apartment building, and shuttled him across town in my old Honda Civic to the Juvenile Detention Center. To know that his kind of graciousness is not in the world is an inconceivable blow.

As Phil Bildner has pointed out, there is a cruel irony in the fact that Mr. Myers passed on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act’s passage.

Mr. Myers charged us not long before his passing with work to be done. Let us do that work.

Rest in power, Mr. Myers.

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