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Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 09 December 2006 in Uncategorized

I get a lot of email every day. Mostly from kids, a lot of it like the email from a young person who recently wanted me to list "all the similes and metaphors" in one of my books.

But at the same time, I receive a lot of thought-provoking, sometimes very moving, email from readers of all ages. Today's mail brought a letter from a grandmother in Texas who feels THE GIVER is too disturbing a book for her grandson and who was distressed because it was required reading in his class. She was not in favor of censorship, I might add...just the fact that it was required of a boy who she felt was not ready for it.

In the same batch of mail was a letter from a 19-year-old who told me what a profound difference THE GIVER had made in his life. He wrote, speaking of a time in his own childhood:

I was given
your book and for the first time in my life I was intrigued by what I had
before my eyes. I won’t go into the subtleties of what you’ve written, as
you know it far better than I could hope to describe. But the importance
lies in how effectively my imagination was captured, not just by the words
you wrote, but the ideas and thoughts you spun. I was happy, I was angry, I
was saddened, but most of all I was scared. You thoroughly and
single-handedly demonstrated the power of thinking, and the ideas which
control the movement of a society through time. Maybe I didn’t fully
understand it at the time, but after your book I consumed every other with
the same ferociousness.

I wasn’t just after stories, I was after ideas, and the thoughts that
created them.

I wrote to that young man that it is what writers most hope for, that something we have written will affect a reader in profound ways. I wrote back also to the grandmother, who was not at all crazed the way would-be book-banners sometimes are ...(I don't really know how to reply to the ones who say JESUS IS ASHAMED OF YOU) ... but rather, an intelligent woman who worries about, and cares about, and wants to protect, a child.

I found a phrase of T.S. Eliot running through my head as I sat here sipping my early-morning coffee and replying to the mail.

DO I DARE DISTURB THE UNIVERSE?

I was recently notified that "The Giver" will shortly be published in Serbian, the 22nd language for that book's translation. It does feel, almost, like "the universe" ... the countless young people who read and respond to the book's concepts, each coming from a different culture, representing different philosophies.

Oddly there has never, to my knowledge, been a challenge or objection to the book in another country. Perhaps, in the same way that the French give their children small sips of diluted wine, there is more of a willingness to expose youngsters to concepts and ideas? I'm generalizing, of course, and one can't assume that Serbia and, say, Thailand deal with education and literacy in the same ways.

But...thinking about the two emails this morning...I find I would like to combine the two points of view. I would love to protect and nurture safely every child in the world; and I would like, at the same time, to capture the imagination and demonstrate the power of thinking.

And now it's time to feed my dog.

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