Use these teaching resources to learn more about the critically acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers and his many books for children and young adults.
An Interview With Walter Dean Myers About The Journal of Joshua Loper
Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., and Linda M. Pavonetti, Ed.D.: You've won awards for both your fiction and nonfiction writing for teens, but this marks the first time you've written in this particular journal format. How did you enjoy writing the fictional journal of Joshua Loper, and how did the writing and research process differ from your other books?
Walter Dean Myers: Having had a life-long longing to be a cowboy, this book was sheer pleasure to write. On the other hand, my idea of what a cowboy was had been garnered primarily from films, and the research showed what a hard job trailing a herd actually was. It also provided an insight into the hardy men who were the cowboys.
RFA and LMP: What did you discover that surprised you most about Black cowboys in the late 1800s?
WDM: The ruggedness of the men was the greatest surprise. It was a backbreaking job.
RFA and LMP: If readers of The Journal of Joshua Loper wanted to read another book about Black cowboys or the Buffalo Soldiers, are there a couple of titles you would recommend?
WDM: William Loren Katz has written two excellent books: The Black West and Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. Bill Pickett, Bulldogger by Colonel Bailey C. Hanes is a good book, and so is The Buffalo Soldiers by William H. Leckie.
RFA and LMP: Two of the most important relationships in this book seem to be Joshua's relationship with his mother and with the Captain. Why are these two very different people so important to Joshua's growth?
WDM: Joshua knew that his mother depended on him at home. In accepting the job as a cowboy, he assumed a responsibility to the Captain, who was the trail boss. In accepting the responsibility of being a cowboy Joshua became a man.
RFA and LMP: In your novel Fallen Angels, war is described as "hours of boredom and seconds of terror." In some ways that describes Joshua's time on the trail ride. Even though one hundred years separated them, do you think any parallels could be drawn between the experiences of young cowboys like Joshua Loper and the soldiers who fought in Vietnam?
WDM: An important aspect of the cowboy's job was his ability to get along with the other men on the trail. In this regard it's very much like a squad of men in a fighting unit. The friendships, the kidding, the relying on each other, made these cowboys seem a lot like the soldiers in Fallen Angels.
RFA and LMP: Joshua's journal describes a very different experience from the Hollywood western we are used to. As you wrote in the Historical Note for this book, "The faces of the men were more diverse than Hollywood has shown." How do you think omitting these Black and Mexican cowboys has affected young people's perception of America and of history?
WDM: As a kid I didn't see Black cowboys on the screen. What that said to me was that there were things I couldn't do or be because of my color. What we see others like us do gives us permission to expand our own horizons. We need to tell young people that America was built by men and women of all colors and that the future of this country is dependent on the participation of all of our citizens.
RFA and LMP: If you could ask young readers of Joshua's journal one question after they finished reading the book, what would that question be?
WDM: I would like to know if the job of cowboy seems like a good one now that I've shown it in a less glamorous light.
RFA and LMP: What is one thing you hope young readers will take with them after reading The Journal of Joshua Loper?
WDM: I admired the work ethic of the cowboys I read about. The idea of these young people taking on this much responsibility was impressive. I would like modern readers to have an appreciation of this.