Lit She Loves, Jan Ackerson: The Giver

 Please offer a warm welcome to Jan Ackerson, a good friend and newly-published writer. Her book of micro-fiction, Stolen Postcards, is set to be released in late summer this year.
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I want to live in the world of The Giver, by Lois Lowry.

It’s a world without the things that make me the saddest:

There’s no hunger.

There’s no poverty.

There’s no inequality.

There’s no racism or intolerance of any kind.

There’s no war.

Every child is welcomed into their family. Everyone is treated with politeness and respect. Every person works at a job that is uniquely suited to their abilities and interests, and all jobs are equally valued.

In short, it’s a perfect world—except that it isn’t. Because it’s a world that has embraced sameness in the cause of safety, conformity in the cause of contentedness, obedience in the cause of orthodoxy. There’s no place in the world for freedom, for individuality, for creativity.

When I first read this book, I was stunned by the way Lowry drew me into the story and then, with each page, peeled back the attractive skin of this place to reveal the horrors beneath. It’s a book designed to make the readers ask is this the inevitable consequence of… and then to finish that question with some current social or political trend. The beauty of her writing, though, is its utter neutrality: liberals are likely to think this is conservatism gone awry, and conservatives are likely to think exactly the opposite. In actuality, The Giver shows us humanity gone awry, and then it gently points us to the solution.

I taught Language Arts to learning disabled teenagers for thirty years before I retired. During that time, I taught The Giver perhaps a dozen times—each time, I had students tell me that they’d never read an entire book before, but that they loved this one. I remember well the wide-eyed looks of astonishment when the first little blemish in Jonas’s world was revealed, and the discussions about whether it’s better to have safety or freedom.

I love this book, and have read it perhaps twenty times, but I loved it even more after reading Lowry’s acceptance speech when The Giver won the Newbery Award. You can find a .pdf of that speech at this link: Newbery Speech

I’ve never been a person who conforms—always several steps out of fashion, more liberal than most people in my circle, more conservative than the general culture, dismissive of gender expectations…you get the idea. Being different is a lonely thing to be, but reading The Giver validates my belief that there’s more value in nonconformity than in Sameness.

Author Bio: Jan Ackerson is a freelance editor and short story writer who lives in rural Michigan. She enjoys traveling with her husband, playing with her granddaughters, and doing small acts towards social justice. Her website is www.superioreditingservice.com.

7 thoughts on “Lit She Loves, Jan Ackerson: The Giver

  1. I didn’t know The Giver was “famous” when I got it on a Kindle deal. I was blown away and immediately purchased and devoured the rest of the series. Coincidentally, at the same time the “Divergent” series became the “must read” of the year and I kept confusing them. The Giver is far and away better. Deeper. More… um…just more. Perfect review, Jan. Thanks Lynn for hosting her!
    Cat

    1. I am reluctant to admit I hadn’t heard of it until Jan told me. I always feel so illiterate and ignorant when I realize there has been a gem of a book I’ve somehow missed.

  2. Oh, The Giver has been one of my favorite books, too. Although I now own (and have read) the other three books of this series, the first one resonated the most.

    I have met Lois Lowry twice at book signings in our local bookstore. It was a privilege to have an author-to-author chat with her, where she answered some questions of mine. Here’s one –

    Me: How do you determine which genre or age level to put your books.
    Lois: I don’t! I write the books without thinking about that. I let the sellers decide which shelf to put them on. (My thinking exactly!)

    I was a bit worried when I heard that they were making The Giver into a movie, knowing that movies are rarely as good as the book. But I was very pleased with the making of this movie. It followed the book very closely. Even Lois Lowry felt honored that they consulted her in its making. She even said that she wished she could go back and give the elder more of a personality, like the writers of the movie did.

    Every time I find The Giver at a yard sale or used bookstore, I buy a copy. . . and give it away. Sometimes I have a few copies on my shelves. Sometimes I have none.

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