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Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

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Reese wants to be a better person. And he’s smart too, but for some reason the only progress he seems to make is falling further down the pit of corrections to isolated detention after fighting and what could become a 20-year sentence for selling drugs. Follow the grayness of Reese’s journey as he struggles with his anger and frustration at Progress juvenile facility, where he meets other inmates and works part-time at a senior citizen’s home because he has a high I.Q.

Despite his aggressive outbursts when other inmates push his buttons, Reese finds he has a soft spot for another prisoner, Mr. Hooft, a patient at the home. Though both of their personal cells keep them from certain dangers, they struggle with the past that put them there. Is Reese guilty of selling drugs? And, if released, will he return to the environment that earned him a rap sheet? Find out if Reese will learn from his mistakes and be able to cope with imprisonment in Walter Dean Myers’ novel, Lockdown.

Walter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia and raised in New York City’s Harlem. He dropped out of high school at 17 to join the Army, but remembered a piece of encouragement from one of his teachers that he should continue writing because, she said, “That’s what you do.”

Recalling her words while working on a construction site years later, he picked up a pen and began his writing career.

Q & A

Where are you from and what was it like growing up there?

I was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia and raised in Harlem, New York. I loved Harlem although I didn’t understand it as a cultural Mecca at the time. For me it was just home. The idea that Harlem was never included in the books I read made me more determined to represent both the area and its people in my own work.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer and how did you get started?

I don’t recall ever making a formal declaration or decision to ‘become’ a writer. I just enjoyed the process and discovered later that some writers could actually sell their stories. Delicious!

What do like you do for fun?

I enjoy music and play a rather battered flute. The theater is something I also like, and I see between fifteen and twenty plays a year.

What books and authors do you enjoy or find inspiring?

I’m just planning a rereading of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I’m also reading How Not to Write a Play by Walter Kerr.

What’s your favorite candy?

My favorite candy? Odd question. Goldenberg’s peanut chews.

Progress and Reese’s experience there were pretty tough, to say the least. Where did you get the idea for Lockdown?

The idea for Lockdown comes from dozens of visits to prisons and detention centers. One of the ironies of being incarcerated is that the environment the inmate comes from is often a factor in the commission of a crime, but the conditions of release almost always involve a return to that environment. I was also influenced by Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII and survived by focusing his life on something outside of the prison. In Frankl’s case it was his wife. I thought of Reese as being imprisoned in socially toxic environments both inside and outside of Progress and gave him Icy to focus on and her well being something for him to look forward to and live for.

Can you give us any hints or spoilers for the next book you plan to write?

My next published young adult book will be Kick, which I am coauthoring with a 15 year old I met through email correspondence.

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