The Giver continues to be listed on the American Library Association's list of 100 Most Challenged Books. The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal for children's literature. Twice it has been adapted for the stage. Both a musical and a movie are in development.
According to Lowry the people who would censor the book are few in number but very vocal.
The book is now in 22 languages, and as far as I know...the U.S. is the only country in which it’s undergone these challenges and controversies....So in Serbia it’s fine. In France it’s fine. In Germany they use it to introduce German children to the study of totalitarianism as a way of understanding what happened under Hitler.
It is a book about the loss of collective memory. One person in each generation inherits the responsibilities of becoming the Receiver of Memory.
Lowry was inspired in part by her experience with her mother and father.
My parents at the time were very elderly and both in a nursing home....(My mother) was extremely fragile, blind and on oxygen, but her memory was intact. She liked to talk about events in her life, including some tragic ones. My father was physically healthy but had lost his memory. So I began thinking about memory and how we use it...and how dangerous it would be if we could control it.
She sees the irony in having written a book that is about the protection of free speech that has almost constantly been on the most-challenged book list.
So why do so many people find the book objectionable?
I’ve been dealing with this for some years now, and I still don’t have an answer...They point to two passages in the book. If they would read the book and if they had any intelligence, they could put those passages in context.
So why would the book be challenged so often in the U.S. and nowhere else?
I don’t have an answer to that...but in recent years we’ve all observed a movement towards more conservative and...fundamentalist thought coming forward. But Christian churches use it a lot, and Jewish people give it as a bar mitzvah gift. So it covers all bases.
Lowry firmly believes that good books can’t harm young readers.
I think even literature that includes harsh reality, which good literature often does, has a role in the lives of young people.
Thanks to Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog, here are excerpts and a link to Lowry's Newbery Award speech.
I think the 1990 Newbery freed me to risk failure....The Newbery Committee was gutsy too. There would have been safer books. More comfortable books. More familiar books. They took a trip beyond the realm of sameness, with this one, and I think they should be very proud of that.
And all of you, as well. Let me say something to those of you here who do such dangerous work.
The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love, and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing. It is very risky.
But each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom. Those are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things.