I was born on a Thursday, the 12th of August, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. My name at birth was Walter Milton Myers. For some strange reason I was given to a man named Herbert Dean who lived in Harlem. I consider it strange because I don't know why I was given away.
I was raised in Harlem by Herbert and his wife, Florence. Herbert was African American. Florence was German and Native American and wonderful and loved me very much.
As a child my life centered around the neighborhood and the church. The neighborhood protected me and the church guided me. I resisted as much as I could.
I was smart (all kids are smart) but didn't do that well in school.
I dropped out of high school (although now Stuyvesant High claims me as a graduate) and joined the army on my 17th birthday.
Basketball has always been a passion of mine. Sometimes at night I lie in bed thinking about games I've played. Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I had gone into the NBA (I was never good enough) or college ball.
Anyway.... I wrote well in high school and a teacher (bless her!) recognized this and also knew I was going to drop out. She advised me to keep on writing no matter what happened to me.
"It's what you do," she said.
I didn't know exactly what that meant but, years later, working on a construction job in New York, I remembered her words. I began writing at night and eventually began writing about the most difficult period of my own life, the teen years. That's what I do.
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