Saturday, September 12, 2020

Connecting with My Friend Walter Dean Myers, Talking Dysfunction & Diversity in America

The first time I met, Walter, aka Walter Dean Myers, we connected, and this led to an odd friendship of a sorts. The thing that bonded us was our similar childhoods, though decades apart. Walter was born in August 1937, my mamma was born in April 1937. Walter lost his mother when he was 2, and my mamma and her sister Dolores lost their daddy even earlier. Walter was given to Florence and Herbert Dean after his mother’s death, my mother, her sister and her mamma moved in with their gramma who raised them for the next few years until their mamma married again.

Walter saw me and knew who I was the moment he laid eyes upon me, never asked why I had a copy of Hoops in my hand. He just understood. As a child, I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Racine, Wisconsin, which I write about here. It was rough and tumble, which I also write about, and that was something Walter understood too as he and I both had to use our fists to defend ourselves at an early age.

His family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief when his uncle was killed, mine when my step-father and sister died because of an explosion. The library and its books became my refuge, as books were a refuge and a solace for Walter.

Reading pushed us both to discover new worlds. For me, the classics. Treasure Island. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Robinson Crusoe. The Time Machine. The Invisible Man. Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Last of the Mohicans. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Around the World in Eighty Days. A Christmas Carol. Frankenstein. Dracula. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Lost World. And on and on.

Though never an apt pupil, Walter wrote well in high school and his English teacher recognized this, encouraging him to never stop writing no matter what happened to him. My English teacher in the 4th grade recognized my writing skill and encouraged me to write for and edit the school newspaper, as did my Uncle Wally and both of whom told me to never stop writing, never stop challenging myself.

Walter dropped out of high school and joined the army at 17. I joined the air force at 17 after finishing high school because I was homeless and had no other options.

Walter was one of the most prolific writers, with more than 110 books to his credit, and is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award in writing for young adults, as well as many other awards. I also became one of the most prolific writers, with more than 250 books to my credit and counting, and have been nominated several times for lifetime achievement awards in writing.

After Walter passed away in 2014, I blogged about one of his last essays decrying a lack of diversity in writing, saying that diversity existed in writing it just wasn’t always plain to see. Diversity in my books has led to controversy. I haven’t let controversy change my views or my writing, nor have I kowtowed to White publishing, nor to the conscientious objectors who worship at the altar of George RR Martin and abhor veterans.

How odd that even after decades and decades, books must still be thought of as white or black, or for whites or for blacks. It was, after all, an interracial award for children’s books that put my friend Walter Dean Myers in the spotlight in 1969. I’ve written much about division lately in my social justice essays. We humans excel at putting up fences, we just don’t know how to take them down.

This is Not the Time to Stand By and Not Say Anything - We all see the world as we want to see it and we don't always see what's right in front of our eyes.

No ‘Johnny Come Lately’ – These Systemic Problems are Ours to Solve & Resolve - I’m not speaking out ‘just now’ or because it’s convenient, I’ve been speaking out my whole life.

Denying the Brutal History of Asians in Our America is theHeight of Ignorance and Stupidity -Outraged after reading an anti-Asian article today in the national press.

It's Not About White vs Black, Cop vs Non-Cop - When Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, said on Good Morning America June 3, 2020, 'Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter,' she stunned Robin Roberts.

Peace Officers, Community Counselors & Police Refocusing Needed - The police forces in our country have tried to do too much. Police try to be mental health counselors, drug and alcohol counselors, marriage counselors, victim’s advocates. They try to...

Hearing and Really Listening. Ending injustice meanslistening to all people. - One of the most powerful black voices I heard, listened to and shared about on Blackout Tuesday was that of Ben O’Keefe, former senior aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Racism in America. Poverty in America. Working-Class America - Many who read my posts may judge me as a privileged, white male. You don’t know me. I was born and raised in the metro area between Milwaukee and Chicago.

End Injustice in America. Injustice Affects All - Outraged this morning as yet again peaceful protests are marred by those conducting violence for the sake of violence. Police departments, first responders and private businesses are not the enemy. Silence is the enemy.

Thanks for reading, I’m William Robert Stanek, Microsoft’s #1 author for nearly 20 years, and author of over 250 topselling books.

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