In the spirit of Banned Books Week, StorySnoops is hosting a retrospective of some of our favorite “frequently-challenged” author interviews and book reviews. BBW is the American Library Association’s annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. It highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. Check out the ALA timeline, showing significant banned and challenged books over the past 30 years. These are some of our all-time favorites—can you imagine someone denying you access to these books?
Our guest today is Lois Lowry, the award-winning author of more than thirty books for children, including one of the most frequently challenged books for the past decade, The Giver.
Thanks for joining us today Lois. We’re thrilled to have you!
For anyone who has read The Giver, it is almost impossible to miss the irony. In the past decade, there have been many attempts to control access to this book that eloquently illustrates the danger of too much control in society. Were you surprised when The Giver was first challenged? How has censorship affected you personally?
Yes, I was very surprised the first time I heard of an attempt to censor The Giver. Now, of course, many years later, it has happened so often that I hardly even notice. But it does make me sad, still.
Does having a book on the frequently banned or challenged list affect your writing in any way?
No. If anything, it has made me aware how important it is to deal with serious issues in books. I don’t shy away from them, for fear of censorship; and my publisher, thankfully, feels the same way.
You have said, “I try, through writing, to convey my passionate awareness that we live intertwined on this planet and that our future depends upon our caring more, and doing more, for one another.” What is the ultimate impact of censorship on this message?
I stand by that message, even though I said those words many years ago. I care about today’s kids and worry about their future. So I try in my own way to stand for the things that will guarantee their freedom. Fighting censorship is important. All totalitarian governments restrict freedom of speech. We have to work to guard against that kind of ominous governmental intrusion.
Many of your books, including Newbery Award winner Number the Stars, touch upon this theme. What experiences in you own life have made human connections the focus of your writing?
I grew up during WW II and have lived, now, through many other conflicts. My son was a military officer killed in a fighter plane. I am unendingly aware of the sacrifices all of us make on behalf of democracy and individual freedoms.
And now some questions from a Junior Snoop, who just read The Giver in middle school.
• The ending of the Giver is unclear. Did Jonas reach Elsewhere, or did you leave it intentionally open for interpretation?
I left it open to interpretation at first but have gone on, now to write three other books to follow The Giver. The first two are Gathering Blue and Messenger, The third is written but not yet titled or published. Jonas…and Gabriel…are major characters in it.
• Is there a reason that you ended the Giver with Jonas on the sled? Does it have any relation to the fact that riding on the sled was the first memory Jonas received?
When a writer inserts a strong image…..such as the memory of the sled…..that writer will usually repeat the image later in the book. (Now that I have told you that, you will start to notice it in other books!)
Join us tomorrow for the StorySnoops SuperScoop review of The Giver. And if you’ve missed any of our BBW 2012 posts you can find them right here.