Lois Lowry discusses final installment to “The Giver” series
Famed author visits Wellesley to discuss her latest novel
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 21:10
Over 250 of Lois Lowry’s fans from the Wellesley area seated themselves in the auditorium of Dana Hall on Monday, Oct. 22 to listen to the renowned children’s author speak about her latest book, “The Son,” as well as the craft of writing.
Lowry is known most notably for “Number the Stars,” a fictional narrative about a Jewish family’s experiences during the Holocaust, and her dystopian novel “The Giver,” which won her a Newbery Medal.
Allison Hoch, children’s events coordinator for Wellesley Books and organizer of this event, gave a brief introduction, after which Lowry took the stage to speak about her writing and read excerpts from each of her four books in “The Giver” series. The talk was followed by a short Q&A segment and a book signing.
Wellesley Books, the bookstore located in the town of Wellesley, planned the event just three weeks after “The Son” was released. “The Son” is the final installment in the series, which began with “The Giver.” “The Giver” is a children’s novel about a twelve-year-old boy named Jonas who is forced to come to terms with the horrors of the dystopian society in which he was raised—a place under such complete control by the government that even dreams and thoughts are monitored. In her introduction, Hoch gave high praise for Lowry’s writing: “What differentiates Ms. Lowry’s books from the barrage of futuristic books on the shelves today is that, in place of violence, swooning romance and action-movie style pacing, are beautiful language, an intense thoughtfulness and a deep sense of character and heart.”
After taking the stage to enthusiastic applause, Lowry began by speaking about her writing process when she built the world of “The Giver.” Several years ago, Lowry’s father began losing his memory and, as she watched him deteriorate, Lowry became very interested in the individuality of dreams and memory.
“No one has the same memories or dreams that you do,” she stated. “You’re the only one with those exact thoughts and images.”
Lowry then imagined a future society wherein all bad memories could be erased. She then designed rules and a structure for that society, where not only bad memories, but also crime and poverty, would be no more. In this way the world of “The Giver” was born.
When “The Giver” was released, it was an instant success. Lowry was recognized, for her moving narrative and for being the first author to write about a future dystopian society in a way that was aimed at children. Despite many readers’ admiration of Lowry and “The Giver,” however, the novel was quickly placed on many schools’ list of banned books for its serious subject matter.
Though she had publicly vowed to never write a sequel to “The Giver,” Lowry eventually wrote three more books because of the many letters she received over the years asking about the fate of her main character, Jonas. She adamantly states, however, that “The Son” will be the last chapter discussing both Jonas and the futuristic world of “The Giver.”
“I’ve already gotten letters from women who say, ‘Can’t you write a fifth book where [the main character] and her young man get together?’ But what they want is an adult romance novel and…” she paused and smiled uncomfortably, “I don’t do that.” Her comment was met with laughter and applause.
After reading several excerpts from each book in “The Giver” series, Lowry answered many questions about writing and gave advice to aspiring authors. “You have to read a lot and write a lot,” she said. “There’s no shortcut to being a writer, and you won’t make any money. I suggest having the credentials to do other things, too. But the world always needs wonderful new books.”
Audience members found their trip to Dana Hall well worth their while. 13-year-old Maria Schur, a student at Dana Hall, found Lowry’s way of speaking captivating. “She’s a great storyteller,” she said. “I look forward to reading all her books now.”
Ginny Hoehlein, a fifth grade teacher from Framingham, was especially moved by Lowry’s personal connection to her stories, and enjoyed the author’s discussion about the genesis of her books. She also appreciated getting to sit in the same room with Lowry, whom she described as “a hero to a lot of young readers.”
Wellesley College students were also spotted at the event as well. Chloe Williamson ’16 had heard about the Lowry event through Wellesley’s science fiction and fantasy club. Williamson hopes to declare as an English major with a concentration in creative writing. “I hope to become a writer,” she said, “and it’s good to hear advice from someone who knows what they’re doing.” When asked if she found Lowry’s advice for aspiring authors at all discouraging, she smiled and said that she did not. “I appreciated her honesty,” she stated.
Hoch said she was delighted to have Wellesley College students attend the Lois Lowry event. “We would love to see more Wellesley students at our events, especially because we’re so close.” Hoch stated that she is interested in coordinating a future event just for Wellesley students, such as an open-mic coffee house, to generate interest in Wellesley Books.
Those who attended the event were encouraged by both Wellesley Books and Lowry to take a trip to the local bookstore, even if it is not to read “The Son” or any of Lowry’s books. While Lowry stated how much she loves writing and hopes that others enjoy her books as much as she does, at the end of her talk she left the audience with a simple instruction: read. “Reading is so important,” she said, “and I don’t feel we do it enough.”
Future events hosted by Wellesley books include a reading by author Jayne Larson from her latest book,“Driving the Saudis.” and a reading by actor, writer and film director Benjamin Busch, who will discuss his memoir, “Dust to Dust.”