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A Writer And His Father, And 'A Barrier Between Us'

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A Writer And His Father, And 'A Barrier Between Us'

A Writer And His Father, And 'A Barrier Between Us'

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It is Friday morning, time for StoryCorps, recording conversations between family and friends. Walter Dean Myers is one of those who has participated. He grew up in Harlem, the son of a janitor. Today, Myers is the author of nearly 100 books that are popular with teenagers, but there was always one person he was always trying to impress with his writing: his father. Myers' son Christopher asked him about that.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER MYERS: He bought you a typewriter at one point. Why do you think he knew that that was important to you?

Mr. WALTER MYERS: Well, I was working at 14. I saved my money up, and I went to buy a typewriter. And at that point, Mom was having a drinking problem, and she spent it up. And so he went out and bought me a typewriter, a Royal. But he never said anything good about my writing, and that really hurt, you know. I mean, that really bothered me a lot.

Now, my father told ghost stories at times. So I even would take his ghost stories and publish them. And I would show them to him, and he would never comment on them. So when I did that, then I said, he hates me. You know, he hates me.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER MYERS: Did you ever ask him about it? Did you ever say, well...

Mr. WALTER MYERS: No, no. And when he was dying, I brought him a book that I'd just finished. And he picked it up and he looked at it, and then he just laid it down.

Then after he died, I went to his house and went through his papers. And I would see X's, you know, where his signature should be, and the man couldn't read. I mean, that was why he never said anything about my writing. It just tore me up. I mean, I could have read him a story at the hospital. I could have read something to him. But he was ashamed of the fact that he could not read. And that was a barrier between us all my life.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Walter Dean Myers remembering his father Herbert Dean at StoryCorps in New York. Walter and his son Christopher now work on books together as writer and illustrator. Their conversation will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. And you can get the podcast at npr.org.

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