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Through his ordeal, Lonnie finds empathy and support from his roommate, Colin, the son of an Indiana farmer, whose poverty surprises Lonnie because Colin is white and because Lonnie had always associated the ownership of property with financial security. Poverty and basketball create such a bond between these two that the issue of race never emerges.
The relationship that gives Lonnie the taste of being a hero, though, and the one that, in some ways, is analogous to Richie's with Kenny, is the one he forms with young Eddie Brignole, an autistic child with whom Lonnie, somewhat improbably, makes almost instant contact where trained therapists have failed, and whose mother, considered overbearing and overprotective by hospital staff, is easily won over by Lonnie despite some initial grumbling. Eddie responds to Lonnie's relaxed, self-deprecating manner; he becomes responsive and completely at ease with Lonnie, who offers to continue working with Eddie even after Eddie's father pulls Eddie out of the hospital program for which Lonnie works.
Like many of Myers's other characters, Eddie, a child of divorced parents, is easily intimidated by his father's visits. Carl Brignole, a one time football player for Tulane, is a thoughtless, but not a malicious bully. Lonnie describes him as "the kind of guy who shook your hand like the harder they squeezed, the more of a man it made them.
Lonnie coaxes Eddie out, and, in the process of becoming a role model to a boy desperately in need of one, learns of gifts he has beyond athletics. Lonnie, who has a surrogate father in Hoops, becomes a surrogate father—or, perhaps more accurately, big brother—in The Outside Shot. Like Richie Perry, he is sustained in a world that is unfamiliar to him by the admiration of a boy and by the empathy of a contemporary. Lonnie also develops a relationship in The Outside Shot with Sherry, a serious, independent, self-assured young woman at Montclare on a track scholarship.
But women rarely occupy central roles in the novels Myers has written from male points of view—even Motown and Didi has been regarded by critics to be "more Motown's story than Didi's" 98 —because they are not central to the experience of these characters, another deprivation that is a function of the environment.
Jimmy Little of Somewhere in the Darkness doesn't think very much about girls, though he is fifteen, and Richie Perry, who reveals so much of his life before Vietnam in Fallen Angels, never even suggests any kind of previous involvement in a romantic relationship. Lonnie tries to understand why he is so uncertain around Sherry, why so many of their early encounters end in misunderstanding, and he concludes, "I wasn't used to dealing with girls outside a man-woman thing.
I didn't know how to just hang out and rap or do casual things.
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What his relationships with Cal in Hoops and with Eddie in The Outside Shot show Lonnie is that he is, indeed, capable of forming an emotional attachment, just as Motown learns first from the Professor and then from Didi, and as Richie Perry learns through Kenny and Peewee. Like many adolescent males, Myers's characters are especially uncommunicative with their mothers. When Lonnie calls his mother from campus, he cannot tell her that he misses her or that he misses home because "that kind of thing was still hard for [him] to say," and because he does not want to worry her.
The mother is to be protected; she is to be spared anxiety. This is the basis of Jamal's anger at his brother Randy in Scorpions. This is why Jimmy does not call Mama Jean while he is on the road with Crab, even though he thinks of her often and would like to contact her. This is why Richie Perry destroys the letter he writes to his mother after Jenkins's death; he is afraid it will upset her. And Richie's mother is equally uncommunicative; she writes to Peewee to say that she loves Richie, but she cannot express that love to Richie himself.
It seems, then, that Myers's male adolescent protagonists learn to be most fully themselves through their associations with other men. These are the relationships that disclose to them the strengths and weaknesses of their character, that nurture their emotional growth and development, that teach them of responsibility—in short, that transform these boys into men. Lonnie Jackson of Hoops and Motown of Motown and Didi find surrogate fathers to offer them advice, protection, and the wisdom of their experience, but even in as strained a father-son relationship as that between Jimmy Little and Crab in Somewhere in the Darkness, Jimmy discovers much that is honorable about himself.
His odyssey transforms him; Crab's negative example and his dependence upon Jimmy confer upon his son a maturity, a depth of understanding and responsibility, that the did not have before his journey began. Lonnie in The Outside Shot and Richie Perry in Fallen Angels, both sons of fathers who have deserted their families and both emigres from the ghetto that has been their only home, discover that their adjustment to new, and in very different ways, challenging surroundings is eased by peer relationships that are especially reassuring as they face hostile circumstances, and by the responsibility they accept to younger boys who look to them as role models and sources of inspiration.
Jamal Hicks of Scorpions seeks solace and support in a peer relationship as well, and though he places too great a burden on Tito for the friendship to endure, his experience teaches him about loyalty and sacrifice and disabuses him of the false notion that respect can be earned and manhood proven with a gun. In a recent interview, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In Myers's characters they see their own concerns explored and struggles resolved, and recognize the value of the kinds of relationships Myers portrays as the means by which they might grow strong and survive.
Hall and Co. Ronald L. David L. Frank W. Adele Sarkissian, ed. Robert E.
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Allan A. Doris Y. Wilkinson and Ronald L. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Ward, Jr. Bishop, Rudine Sims. Presenting Walter Dean Myers. Twayne's United States Authors Series. Boston, MA: G. Cuseo, Allan A. Dudley, David L. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.
Interview by Jerry W. In New Literary History 22 Autumn : Statistical Record of Black America. Jackson, Gale.
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In School Library Journal 31 March : New York: Harper Collins, New York: Parents Magazine Press, Sarkissian, Adele, ed. Shelton, Frank W. Taylor, Ronald L. Edited by Doris Y. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, Unsworth, Robert E.
Manual Clerk! The Vietnam Memoir of Paul A. Myers
Review of Scorpions , by Walter Dean Myers. In School Library Journal 35 September : Zvirin, Stephanie.
Review of Hoops , by Walter Dean Myers. In Booklist 78 15 September : Boston, Mass. Hall, Lord let us feel pity for Private Jenkins, and sorrow for ourselves, and all the angel warriors that fall. Let us fear death, but let it not live within us. Protect us, O Lord, and be merciful unto us. This is the prayer that gives Fallen Angels its title, offered on the death of one of the angel warriors—boys sent off to fight wars before they are old enough to vote. A disproportionate percentage of those angel warriors were underprivileged young men who could not escape the draft or who thought the military would offer them educational opportunities and a source of income.
Many were from the Harlems of this country, and in Fallen Angels Myers presents a fictional portrayal of one such young man and his experience of the Vietnam War. The book is dedicated to Myers's brother Tommy, one of the several Martinsburg siblings who made their way to New York.
Although Myers did not develop close relationships with them, the younger boys admired Walter, who had escaped the hardships of Martinsburg and lived what must have appeared to be an exciting life in Harlem. Tommy, a sensitive young man who wanted to be an artist, elected first to follow his older brother's footsteps and join the army.
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He became one of the fallen angels, struck down before his twenty-first birthday. Myers was deeply moved by his death and terribly saddened at the thought of the wasted life—a gift thrown away. Even though the book honors Tommy, Myers tapped his own experiences to create the character of Richard Perry. Like Myers, he attended Stuyvesant High School and wanted to go to college and become a writer.