Lois Lowry (born Lois Ann Hammersberg on March 20, 1937) is an American writer. She is the author of several books for children and young adults, including The Giver Quartet, Number the Stars, and Rabble Starkey. She is known for writing about difficult subject matters, dystopias, and complex themes in works for young audiences.
|Born||Lois Ann Hammersberg|
March 20, 1937
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
|Genre||Children's literature, fantasy|
|Notable awards||Newbery Medal |
Margaret Edwards Award
|Spouse||Donald Grey Lowry (1956–1977; divorced; 4 children, 2 sons and 2 daughters)|
Many of her books have been challenged or even banned in some schools and libraries, including the first book of The Giver Quartet, The Giver (1993) which is considered mandatory curriculum in some schools while being prohibited in others.
Lowry was born on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, to Katherine Gordon Landis and Robert E. Hammersberg.: xi Her maternal grandfather, Merkel Landis, a banker, created the Christmas Club savings program in 1910.: 24 Initially, Lowry's parents named her "Cena" for her Norwegian grandmother, but upon hearing the news, her grandmother telegraphed and instructed Lowry's parents that the child should have an American name.: 12
Lowry's father was an army dentist, whose work moved the family all over the United States and to many parts of the world. Lowry and her family moved from Hawaii to Brooklyn, New York, in 1939, when Lowry was two years old. They relocated in 1942 to her mother's hometown in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when Lowry's father was deployed to the Pacific during World War II. Lowry started school in Carlisle at the Franklin School when she'd already been reading for three years and skipped the first grade.
After World War II, Lowry moved with her family to Tokyo, Japan, where her father was stationed from 1948 to 1950. Lowry attended seventh and eighth grades at The American School in Japan, a school for dependents of those involved in the military. She returned to the United States to attend high school. Lowry and her family lived in Carlisle again in 1950, where she attended freshman high school before moving to Governors Island, New York, where Lowry attended Curtis High School, on Staten Island. She finished high school at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, New York, attending from 1952 to 1954. She then attended Pembroke College, which became fully merged with Brown University in 1971.: xi There she met her future husband, Donald Grey Lowry.
Lowry left the university in 1956 after her marriage to Donald Grey Lowry, a U.S. Navy officer. The couple moved several times from San Diego to New London, Connecticut, to Key West to Charleston to Cambridge to Portland, Maine. They had two daughters, Alix and Kristin, and two sons, Donald Grey and Benjamin.
While raising her children, Lowry completed her degree in English literature at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine, in 1972. After earning her B.A., she continued at the university to pursue graduate studies.
In 1977, when she was 40 years old, Lowry had her first book A Summer to Die published. During that same year, she and her then-husband Donald Lowry divorced. Not long after, however, she met and married another man named Martin Small as her second husband. After Small's death in 2011, Lowry then engaged in another a relationship with Howard Corwin, a retired physician.
Lowry's son Grey, a USAF major and flight instructor, was killed in the crash of his fighter plane in 1995. Lowry acknowledged that it was the most difficult day of her life, and she said, "His death in the cockpit of a warplane tore away a piece of my world. But it left me, too, with a wish to honor him by joining the many others trying to find a way to end conflict on this very fragile earth."
As of 2021, Lowry has properties in Massachusetts and Maine and she still remains an active writer and speaker.
Lowry first began her career as a freelance journalist. In the 1970s, she submitted a short story to Redbook magazine, which was intended for adult audiences but written from a child's perspective. An editor working at Houghton Mifflin then suggested to Lowry that she should write a children's book. Lowry agreed and wrote her first book A Summer to Die, which was later published by Houghton Mifflin in 1977 when she was 40 years old. The book featured the theme of terminal illness, which is based on Lowry's own experiences with her sister Helen.
Lowry continued to write about difficult topics in her next publication, Autumn Street (1979), which explores themes of coping with racism, grief, and fear at a young age. The novel is told from the perspective of a young girl who is sent to live with her grandfather during World War II, which is also based on her own experiences of having her father deployed during World War II. Of all the books she has published, Autumn Street is considered to be her most autobiographical.
In the same year of publishing Autumn Street, Lowry also published her novel Anastasia Krupnik, the first instalment in the Anastasia series. The series, which touches on serious themes with a humorous approach, continued through to 1995.
Lowry published Number the Stars in 1989, which book received multiple awards, including the 1990 Newbery medal. Lowry received another Newbery medal in 1994, for The Giver (1993). After publishing The Giver, she went on to publish another three companion novels which take place in the same universe: Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004) and finally Son (2012), which tied all three of the previous books together. Collectively, they are referred to as The Giver Quartet. The New York Times described the quartet as "less a speculative fiction than a kind of guide for teaching children (and their parents, if they're listening carefully) how to be a good person."
In early 2020, she released a book of poetry, called On the Horizon, charting her childhood memories of life in Hawaii and Tokyo, and the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima.
During the coronavirus epidemic in 2020, the American publishing company Scholastic Corporation asked Lowry to write a new introduction to Like the Willow Tree, a story of a young girl living in Portland, Maine who was orphaned during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. The book was first published in 2011, before being reissued by Scholastic in September 2020.
Critical reception and banningEdit
Throughout her works, Lowry has explored several complex issues including racism, terminal illness, murder, the Holocaust, and the questioning of authority, among other challenging topics. Her writing on such matters has accumulated both praise and criticism. The Chicago Tribune has said a theme running through all of her work is "the importance of human connections."
By 2000, eight of her books had been challenged in schools and libraries in the United States. In particular, The Giver (the first novel in The Giver Quartet) received a diversity of reactions from schools in America after its release in 1993. While some schools adopted it as a part of the mandatory curriculum, others prohibited the book's inclusion in their classroom studies. According to the New York Times in 2012, The Giver had been perennially near the top of the America Library Association's list of banned and challenged books since its publication. In a 2012 review of Son, the New York Times said the 1993 publication of The Giver had "shocked adult and child sensibilities alike". In 2020, Time magazine described The Giver as "a staple of both middle school curricular and banned book lists."
According to biographer Joel Chaston, Lowry's most critically acclaimed works are Rabble Starkey, Number the Stars, and The Giver.: x
Biographer Joel Chaston described her as "clearly one of the most important twentieth-century American writers for children".: ix
Robin Wasserman, a writer for The New York Times, said "In many ways, Lowry invented the contemporary young adult dystopian novel", pointing out that in 1993 it was "unusual and unsettling" for children's literature to address topics of political oppression, euthanasia, suicide, or murder.
Lowry won the Newbery Medal in 1990 for her novel Number the Stars, and again in 1994 for The Giver. For Number the Stars, Lowry has also received the National Jewish Book Award in 1990, in the Children's Literature category, and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award in 1991.
Lowry has been nominated three times for the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books. She was a finalist in 2000, a U.S. nominee in 2004, and a finalist in 2016.
In 2007, she received the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her contributions writing for teens. The ALA Margaret Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Lowry won the annual award in 2007 for The Giver (published 1993). The citation observed that "The Giver was one of the most frequently challenged books from 1990 to 2000" — that is, the object of "a formal, written attempt to remove a book from a library or classroom." According to the panel chair, "The book has held a unique position in teen literature. Lowry's exceptional use of metaphors and subtle complexity make it a book that will be discussed, debated and challenged for years to come...a perfect teen read."
In 2011 she gave the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture; her lecture was titled "UNLEAVING: The Staying Power of Gold". She has been awarded honorary degrees from six universities, including a Doctorate of Letters by Brown University in 2014,St. Mary's College, University of Southern Maine, Elmhurst College, Wilson College, and Lesley University.
- With the release of Son (2012), the Giver series has been redefined as a finished "quartet" of fantasy novels. While Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004) were only loosely related companions to The Giver (1993), Son ties all three storylines together, with "heroes and fates colliding in a final, epic struggle."
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Also to receive honorary degrees were Lois Lowry, award-winning children’s author best known for “The Giver”
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