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YA Wednesday: Lois Lowry on "Son," What She's Reading, and More

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Lois Lowry's The Giver is one of those novels that, while written for a young adult audience, resonates just as much with the adult reader and this beautifully written and chilling classic is perfect for fans of today's dystopian fiction. 

The Giver won the Newbery Medal and Lowry followed it six years later with Gathering Blue and finally The Messenger.  This month we finally get to read Son, the final book in the quartet that returns to Gabe's story, one Lowry decided to write, she says, after the sheer magnitude of reader interest began to pique her own. 

I'm a huge fan of Lowry's books and Son is our spotlight pick for Best Young Adult Book of October--though, honestly, there is so much adult appeal that Son is really just a best book for readers from 12 on up.  Below is an email question and answer exchange I had with Lowry to learn more about Son and other things in this amazing author's life.   And if Son--or The Giver--is on your list of "books I need to read" I can't recommend enough that you move it to the top, you won't be disappointed.

A Q&A with Lois Lowry:

Q: What made you decide to make The Giver a quartet instead of a trilogy (I’m so happy you did…) or was that conclusion always in the back of your mind?  How long did you work on Son?

A: SON took me a couple of years.  I started it by focusing on Gabe, the boy, because of the many, many requests of readers to know what became of "the baby"...  Then, exploring his origins, I found myself fascinated by the young birthmother, so she became the protagonist and the  whole book changed.  That's why it took so long.

Q: Was there any particular fan letter or event that moved you to write Gabe’s story that readers had been asking for, and do you have any other persistent requests that you might consider writing?

A: No one particular letter or event, just the sheer magnitude of the interest in Gabe.  It is rare for me to accede in that way to reader requests, though. In this case I think their interest began to pique my own. The other request I often get is to write again about the Holocaust. But I don't have any plans to do that. So much has already been written, and by people with greater authority and experience than I.

Q: Son was released during Banned Books week and The Giver in particular has been both adopted and challenged in the classroom— when you wrote The Giver did you imagine it would have generate such polarizing opinions?

A: No, not a clue.  I still am amazed when The Giver is challenged

Q: Are you amazed that this particular book is challenged or that books in general are still being challenged?

A: It doesn't surprise me that attempts at censorship..not only of The Giver but of other books...is ongoing. It is evidence of the emerging conservatism in this country. And it's based on understandable fear and anxiety about the future. In my opinion, though, it's a misplaced reaction..

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: I loved the author Lois Lenski in part because we shared a not-very-common name.  But THE YEARLING was the book that activated my literate life.  My mother read it to me when I was eight.

Q: What was it about THE YEARLING that spoke to you in such a meaningful way?

A: It was published as an adult book, and I knew at age 8 that my mother was doing something very special in reading it to me. I could see how it affected her emotionally..she wept at times during the reading...and I had not known before that a book could have such power.

Q: What’s on your bedside table?

A: THE ORCHARDIST by Amanda Coplin

Q: I love that one, it’s beautiful....do you read kids or YA books very often and if so, do you have any new authors or books you really like?

A: I am an avid reader but I have a busy schedule and limited time for reading. So the books I choose are almost always adult books.  I rarely read kids or YA books.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment as an author?

A: Being warned by the FBI not to appear publicly in a certain city because there was a psychopath there who was fixated on THE GIVER.

Q: What book by another author would you most like to have written?

A: That's a toughie.  Maybe ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan.

Q: Would you say that’s one of your all-time favorite books?

A: Not necessarily, but I thought it was a real tour-de-force.

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