by Walter Dean Myers | Grades: 7-12 | Ages: 12-17 | Lexile Level: 650
About Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s
This is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren't the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is even there at all.
A Biographical Note From Walter Dean Myers
“I was born on a Thursday, the 12th of August, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. My name at birth was Walter Milton Myers. I was about two years old when my mother died and then I was inexplicably given to Florence and Herbert Dean. I was raised in Harlem by Herbert, who was African-American and Florence, who was German and Native American and wonderful. They loved me very much and I grew to love Harlem.
As a child, my life revolved around my neighborhood and 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 had a speech impediment and often found myself leading with my fists when teased.
I found solace in books. My mother read to me from a very young age. From my comfortable perch on her lap, I would watch as she moved her finger slowly across the page and I’d imagine the characters. Reading pushed me to discover worlds beyond my landscape, especially during dark times when my uncle was murdered and my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief.
I wrote well in high school and an English teacher (bless her!) recognized this and advised me to keep on writing no matter what happened to me. “It’s what you do,” she said. I ended up dropping out of high school (although now Stuyvesant High claims me as a graduate) and joined the army on my 17th birthday.
After the army, I was struggling through life—holding on just enough to survive. Remembering my high school teacher’s words, I began writing at night. I wrote short columns for a local tabloid and stories for men’s magazines.
A turning point for me was the discovery of a short story by James Baldwin about the black urban experience. It gave me permission to write about my own experiences. Somehow I always go back to the most turbulent periods of my own life. I write books for the troubled boy I once was, and for the boy who lives within me still. It’s what I do.”
— Walter Dean Myers walterdeanmyers.net