2017 Walter Dean Myers Award

(soft music) American author Walter Dean Myers is best known as a writer
of children's books, specifically young adult literature. As a celebrated and influential figure, he won various awards and recognitions. From being a five-time Coretta
Scott King Award winner for African American authors, to being a two-time Newbery Honoree, recognized for his
outstanding contribution to American literature for children. And with his groundbreaking
novel, MONSTER, Walter Dean Myers was
the first-ever winner of the Michael L. Printz Award
for Young Adult Literature. On March 15, 2014, Walter Dean Myers wrote his
final piece, an essay entitled, "Where Are the People of
Color in Children's Books?," which, along with his son,
Christopher Myers' essay, "The Apartheid of Children's Literature," help launched the We Need
Diverse Books movement. Upon his death on July 1, 2014, the world lost one of the greatest voices of children's literature and
one of our strongest advocates. Walter Dean Myers discovered his love for literature
and poetry at an early age. He molded himself into a
writer, teacher, artist, and advocate for children everywhere, dedicating his life to
helping them discover the power of reading. It is in this spirit,
that We Need Diverse Books has made its selections for this year's Walter Dean
Myers Award – "The Walter" – for Outstanding Children's
Literature, Young Adult category. A panel of judges
reviewed titles published during the 2016 calendar year by diverse authors whose work featured a diverse main character or addressed diversity
in a meaningful way. Covering multiple genres,
the books reviewed included both fiction and non-fiction. The Award's mission is to honor the memory of Walter Dean Myers
and his literary legacy, as well as celebrate
diversity in teen literature. The winner of the second
annual Walter Award for 2017 is the young adult novel MARCH: BOOK THREE by Congressman John Lewis,
Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Our judges panel has also
selected three Walter Honor books. WATCHED by Marina Budhos IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon. It is an honor from all of
us to have been chosen as a recipient of the
Walter Dean Myers Award. Thank you for doing everything possible to bringing books about people of color. If you had told me
two-and-a-half years ago when I was still taking
dish-washing gigs as they came, I would be speaking on the same stage as Representative John
Lewis, and meeting him, and everything else that's happened, I would have thought either
you or I were going insane. To me, what diversity in children's books and young adult means has to do with a widening of empathy. Books that depict diverse experiences, diverse young people, what they're doing at a time like this, where we're so polarized
and we're so hunkered down, and we have narrowed the scope of human
expression and understanding, what these books do, is they
open that back up again. Because we have to use our stories, the stories of our histories,
the stories of our culture, the stories of our society, to show young people what it's like in other parts of our world so that they can build empathy towards their fellow human being, so they can understand another person and not feel limited by
their own experiences. It's more important than ever, that we manifest narratives
which are reflective of the world around us. Diversity is a very basic application of allowing people to see the world as it is, in all of its richness. My inability to imagine a life better than the one I was leading and opportunities better than
the ones I was receiving, was because, for my entire life, I'd never seen any of those things being applied to people like me. I'm thrilled to be joining others and to hopefully be
following in the footsteps of someone as accomplished and esteemed as the late Walter Dean. Here's to all of us,
in love and resistance and moving forward together.
The future is unwritten. Our job as writers is to tell the truth. The truth is we live in a big,
beautiful, and diverse world. The truth is the world is beautiful because of its diversity. We will not survive if we
do not understand this. We will not survive if
we do not see each other and love each other. "What do we do now?" we ask. To everyone, but especially to all the beautiful writers
in this room as they write, write like all our lives
depend on it because they do. We all live in the same house. It doesn't matter whether
we are black, or white, Latino, Asian American,
or Native American. But we must learn to understand all of us for we need to know more
about each one of us. And with books, we can learn so much, our children and their children, to create the beloved community.

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