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Writer Reveals a Family Secret

Getty Images / New York Daily News / Howard Earl Simmons

Walter Dean Myers thought his father hated his writing. When his dad died, the author finally learned the true story.

Walter Dean Myers (1937 - 2014) was a best-selling and award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and young adults. Books had given him both an identity and a way to affect the world, his son, Christopher Myers, told the New York Times. And Walter Dean Myers was determined to produce literature about black people, people whose stories had not yet been told. 

Before he died, he sat down with his son for an interview with StoryCorps as part of its ongoing mission to "provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives."

In the interview, Walter Myers speaks about his own father and the pain he felt over his father's apparent disregard for his work as an author. Books were Walter's passion, and yet his father "never said anything good about my writing." Time and again, Walter would share his latest story with his father, and his father would set it aside without comment, leaving Walter hurt and confused. It was not until after his father's death that the author learned why.

Going through his father's papers after he died, Walter discovered the truth: his father was illiterate. He had signed every document with an "X" rather than his name. His father didn't read and comment on Walter's work because he couldn't.

Too late, Myers understood the hidden sadness his father carried with him. Myers seems to have sought a different kind of relationship with his own son. Walter and Christopher collaborated on five books, with Christopher providing illustrations for Walter's words. And Christopher continues his father's legacy, writing and illustrating books for children that tell black stories.