Reading into History Interviews Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers

Readers, we know you are out there enjoying Harlem Summer, imagining the days of rent parties and bootlegging, and hoping Mark finds a way out of all the trouble he is in. For a second, take a break from the book and check out this short interview with the author, Walter Dean Myers. We guarantee it will help you read the book in a new way and get you even more excited to meet Mr. Myers here at the museum on August 29th from 4:30-6 pm. Don’t forget to e-mail familyprograms@nyhistory.org to a free family pass for the event!

New-York Historical Society: What were you like between the ages of nine and twelve?
Walter Dean Myers: I was a confident, but aggressive, kid, from the age of nine to my twelfth birthday.   My uncle, who had finally been released from jail after being there some seventeen years or so, was murdered on my birthday.   This started a downward spiral for my family which would involve alcoholism, and a major depression.

N-YHS: What is your favorite time period in American history? Why?
Mr. Myers: The period right after the Revolutionary War when the young nation was trying to find its path through the intellectual concepts it wanted to embrace and the pragmatic needs of its diverse citizenry is my favorite time period.  How elevated  the tone of those conversations, many mirrored in the Federalist Papers, must have been!

N-YHS: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen at the New-York Historical Society?
Mr. Myers: What always interests me at New-York Historical are the everyday artifacts of ordinary lives.  I’ve always wanted to think of the past as vaguely esoteric, but these people, soldiers, patriots, housewives and workers also had to manage the tasks of day to day living.  Tres cool.

N-YHS: What is your favorite place in New York City? Why?
Mr. Myers: Harlem, of course, was my childhood home.  But it also represents a growing New York as it extended the idea of ‘uptown’ and represented a style, and a cultural concept that promoted growth.

N-YHS: What made you want to write Harlem Summer?
Mr. Myers: Langston Hughes did readings at my church when I was a child, and promoted my writing when I was a young struggling artist.   I was published early on in The Crisis, the magazine started by DuBois.  My parents went to rent parties at which Fats Waller played. How could I not write Harlem Summer?

N-YHS: What three words best describe Harlem Summer
Mr. Myers: Truth.  Legend. Fun.

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