Thursday, October 1, 2009

Giving Inspiration

The Giver is a 1993 novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian; therefore, it could be considered anti-utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. As Jonas receives the memories from the previous receiver—the “Giver”—he discovers how shallow his community’s life has become.

Despite controversy and criticism that the book’s subject material is inappropriate for young children, The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold more than 5.3 million copies. In Australia, the United States and Canada, it is a part of many middle school reading lists, but it is also on many banned book lists. The novel forms a loose trilogy with Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004), two other books set in the same future era.


My friend, who happens to be a high school English teacher, and I were at Borders one Friday night perusing the YA section, because that’s what us old thirty-somethings do on Friday nights. Her hand darted out and grabbed a thin book with an old, grisly looking man on the cover. She shoved it into my hands and said, “You have to read this!” The book was The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I bought it, but I’ll admit I was hesitant to crack the cover. It didn’t look like “my thing”. After about a month of collecting dust on my nightstand, I picked it up one night after scooting in bed under the covers.

It was a different read for me. There were no desperately in love teen girls, no vampires or werewolves, no alcoholic mother or abusive father, just seemingly perfect people living in a seemingly perfect world.

Then the metaphorical shade was drawn and Lois Lowry gave us a peek into the real world she’d created, where babies and old people are “released”, a civil form of euthanasia in Lowry’s dystopian society.

As I read, and was unable to stop reading, I recalled Brave New World from my high school days, a book I devoured and recommended to everyone in my family. After reading the last page of The Giver, I immediately opened a new Word document and began my own dystopian novel.

As for being banned…I’d rather have my children learn about a dystopian society, and the level of control a government can have over people from books like The Giver, than by first hand experience. Hopefully it will open their eyes and political interests early. Not only do authors like Lowry spark a love of reading, they spark thoughts about morality, responsibility, and political sensibility.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Jamie Blair. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

No comments: