The Giver Author/Context
Born on March 20, 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Lois Lowry was the second daughter of Robert Hammersberg, an army dentist, and Katharine Landis, the daughter of a Pennsylvanian banker. The Hammersberg family moved constantly, living in different places because of Robert Hammersberg's career in the army. When Lois was two, the family moved to the father's assignment in New York City.
Lowry taught herself to read and write, and she later described herself as "an intellectual snob at the age of three." Life at home was harmonious with a mother who constantly read aloud and a father who told stories about his childhood. However, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States went to war, and in 1941, the family was separated from their father who was sent off to war.
With her children, Katharine Landis returned to her hometown in Pennsylvania to her family and relatives. There, Lowry shared a special relationship with her affectionate grandfather and the cook of the family, Fleta. Soon after, a baby brother was born, and Lowry started school. At school, Lowry, having already mastered reading and writing, was constantly ahead of other children as a result of which she was able to skip the second grade. Lowry's childhood was a warm, happy one despite the fact that it was in the middle of the World War II. As a girl, she loved making trips to the local public library, and was convinced that she would become a writer some day.
After the war ended, the family once again relocated. This time, Katharine Landis took her children to Japan where her husband had been living and stationed since the war. Lowry attended the English-speaking Meguro School in Tokyo with her older sister Helen. The family lived in Washington Heights where the families of other US army officials lived. Lowry welcomed the chance to be reunited with her father in Japan whose absence had made her long for him. After a two-year stay in Japan, however, the Korean War broke out, and the family was again separated from their father, heading back to Pennsylvania. Lowry's stay in Pennsylvania was not to be a long one, however. Robert Hammersberg shortly followed his family to the United States, taking them back to New York where his new assignment was to be. Lois first attended Curtis High School, a public high school on Staten Island, and later transferred to a private girls' school in Brooklyn called Packer Collegiate Institute. In high school, Lowry was a shy and reserved student who loved to read and write.
After high school, Lowry attended Brown University which had offered her a scholarship and acceptance into its honors writing program. She met her future husband at Brown-Donald Grey Lowry who later persuaded her to discontinue her education and marry him. Donald Lowry was an officer in the United States Navy, so Lowry's married life was no different from the rest of her life in that it was spent in many different places. By the age of twenty-five, she had had four children. Later, Donald Lowry enrolled at Harvard Law School, and the family lived in Cambridge. During her time at Cambridge, Lowry received word from her sister Helen that she was dying of cancer. Although she repeatedly made plans to go see her sister at Washington DC, Lowry was never able to see her again alive.
After Donald Lowry graduated from law school, the family moved to Maine where Lowry spent most of her time raising her children and taking care of her family. She was a disciplinary, but affectionate mother. When her youngest child started attending school, Lowry decided to continue her education at the University of Southern Maine where she earned her BA and started her Masters degree. She actively began writing nonfiction articles as well as short stories for newspapers and magazines. Upon the urging of an editor from Houghton Mifflin, a publishing company based in Boston, Lowry started writing what would eventually become her first novel, A Summer to Die. A story about two sisters one of whom faces imminent death from illness, the book that had been inspired by the death of her own sister earner Lowry much acclaim. With success in career, however, came failure in marriage. The same year her book was published, Lowry's marriage to Donald Lowry ended.
After the divorce, Lois eventually moved to Boston where she actively began writing for young people. She has written books that reflect the realities of her own life and depict various problems about coming of age. Her third novel Autumn Street was a autobiographical piece of work that portrayed a family living in Pennsylvania during the war. It was a serious piece of work after which Lois decided to write a happier, lighter work. This was the start of her famous Anastasia Krupnik series about a girl growing up in Cambridge. Number the Stars was, however, the book that earned the author wide acclaim as well as a Newbery Award. It was a book based on a factual account of a Danish woman she had met in Maine. She did extensive historical research and even made a trip to Denmark in order to feel what her characters would in the book.
If Number the Stars was a book about the past, her next work The Giver was a book about the future. It earned Lowry her second Newbery Medal in 1994. Upon receiving the award, Lowry explained that some of her life experiences and events had led her to the writing of the novel. Her years in Japan as well as her college days at Brown had all helped her write the book. There were specific events in her life such as a trip to Germany and a visit to her father in a nursing home that had led her to think about issues such as pain, memories, and choices-themes that run throughout The Giver.
Lowry says that her reason for writing for young people is that she likes remembering her own life as a child while writing. Another reason is that much of her early adulthood was spent taking care of and thinking about the lives of her four children. Her experiences with her children taught her the importance of "treating young people with sensitivity and compassion."
"Lois Lowry." Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Writers for Children since 1960. 1986 ed.
"Lois Lowry." Something About the Author. 1987 ed.
"Lowry, Lois." Majors Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. 1993 ed.
Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New York, 1993.