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Bad Boy: A Memoir Hardcover – May 8, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Myers paints a fascinating picture of his childhood growing up in Harlem in the 1940s, with an adult's benefit of hindsight, wrote PW. What emerges is a clear sense of how one young man's gifts separate him from his peers, causing him to stir up trouble in order to belong. Ages 13-up. (May)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-This superb memoir begins simply with an account of Myers's family history and his boyhood. Vivid detail makes the Harlem of the '40s come alive, from the music and children's games to the everyday struggle for survival. As Myers grows older, however, his story also grows in complexity. Soon readers are caught up in his turbulent adolescence and his slow, painful development as a writer. Even while performing poorly in school, the teen endlessly devoured great works of literature, often in secret. He also wrote, sometimes quitting out of discouragement but always beginning again. Eventually he attended school less and less often, sometimes fighting roaming gang members or delivering "packages" for drug dealers. After dropping out of high school, he enlisted in the army. Sadness and bewilderment infuse these last chapters as Myers faces a bleak future. Intellectually, he's left his family and friends far behind, but his race and circumstances seem to give him few choices. After years of menial jobs, Myers remembered a teacher's advice-"Whatever you do, don't stop writing"-and in time his persistence paid off. This memoir is never preachy; instead, it is a story full of funny anecdotes, lofty ideals, and tender moments. The author's growing awareness of racism and of his own identity as a black man make up one of the most interesting threads. Young writers will find inspiration here, while others may read the book as a straightforward account of a colorful, unforgettable childhood.
Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; Fifth or Later Edition edition (May 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060295236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060295233
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,059,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter Dean Myers is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By readaway on April 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
Please be aware of these two books with VERY SIMILAR TITLES- One by Walter Dean Myers, Bad Boy: A Memoir, the other- Bad Boy by Olivia Goldsmith. As I was looking at the reviews of Myers' book, I was caught off-guard by the numerous negative comments regarding his writing. After further investigation, it seems that many are commenting on Goldsmith's book. Just a heads up for those writing and reading these reviews.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Eileen G. on July 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a straightforward and workmanlike autobiography by a prolific writer of works for young readers, and is probably best for kids as young as eight through young teens. Myers' voice is calm and reflective. He has looked back on the vanished world of his 1940's and 50's Harlem childhood and adolescence with a deceptive calmness, and a pleasing recall of detail. School, friends, teachers, family life, community life, and (not insignificantly to Myers, a voracious reader) the covers and contents of pulp novels and magazines, as seen through a child's eyes - are all here.
Some of the more disturbing facts of his young life are reported on in a deadpan manner that at first seems almost flat. In one emblematic incident, a well-meaning teacher asks him his career plans, and upon hearing that Myers hopes to become a lawyer, flat-out tells him he can't, since he has a speech defect.
Myers made trouble, and he matter-of-factly tells why. Kids will appreciate his thoughtful explanations and self-understanding. But Myers was also a reader - not just for escape, but for the love of literature- and he lets us in that that process (and its consequences to his social life), too.
The chapters "Bad Boy," "I Am Not the Center of the Universe," and "Stuyvesant High" are particularly useful for their descriptions of important and formative experiences.
This is a story that is told humbly. It lacks melodrama not because Myers' early life was dull, but because Myers is a quiet writer; he trusts himself and his legions of young readers. He invites them in this quiet memoir to enter his quite remarkable experiences - and to form their own opinions. I enjoyed this sensitive (but not humorless) story very much, and came away with renewed interest and respect for its author.
Completely worthwhile.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers is a memoir of the author's life. Set mostly in Harlem, the book follows Myers' troublesome childhood and the challenges he faced with his family life, his adoption, and his behavior. Though a bright child, he had a quick temper and a speech problem. This got him into many bad situations and unfortunately partly led to his "downfall" in school.
In Bad Boy, I loved how the setting of the book is in Harlem, where I have visited many times. I am familiar with many of the places he "relaxed" in and feel connected to him somehow. The book is wonderfully written and shows that in the end, even a "troubled" boy can succeed. The author was adopted by Herbert and Florence Myers and many times talks about his and biological and natural families in the book. He gets the Dean in his name from his biological father and the Myers in his name from his adoptive father. The book shows the world of poverty, something that I am not acquainted with at all. It showed me that everyone does not have the things that us "middle class" kids have. All in all, he was raised in a bad situation, but turned out good in the end. In a teenager's view, parents are wrong. Period. In reality, they are only wrong sometimes, not all the time, or, just don't understand. In the end of the book on page 205, his father says, "You wrote stories when you were a boy. You're a man, now." This shows that his father didn't understand his passion for writing, and thought that writing was not "man's work".
I believe there were many small themes in the book. Bad Boy highlighted racism, teenage hood, and poverty just to name a few. As an African American teenager, I have experienced some, but not all of the things he has. I think that the main theme of the book is misunderstanding.
Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SW on July 22, 2002
Format: Audio Cassette
Having written short biographies of Malcolm X and other public figures, Myers recounts his own experience growing up in Harlem in the 1940's-60's. Myers apparently missed the turmoil facing the African-American community in Harlem during the time of Malcolm X. It is a soft spoken voice with which he describes his experiences and conflicts.
The author describes his high school experience in a mostly white school; his athletic ability and love of basketball which helped him be accepted to some degree; and the frustration over the conviction that he was intelligent yet not able to earn the grades he knew he should. He divided all his spare time between playing basketball, reading for pleasure and writing-he would disappear for hours into the worlds his favorite authors created and/or trying to produce poems in the style of the various poets he was reading.
The beauty of this memoir is that Myers not only relates his own experience, his own frustrations, his opportunities and disadvantages, but he describes his growing love for literature, from reading pop romance novels aloud to his mother and sneaking comic books, through Nordic fairytales. Later he was introduced to higher quality literature by teachers who took an interest in him; they introduced him to Camus and de Balzac and Shakespeare, and a wide variety of other authors. Myers eventually became aware of the legacy of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and other black writers, although he did not know about them until much later.
Myers' story should inspire young adults of teenage to pursue their interests, even if their friends do not understand them.
Hearing Myers' experiences related on audio brings them alive.
Actor Joe Morton (who also read an excellent version of Monster on tape) gives the teenage Walter Dean Myers a voice.
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