This past year has been extraordinary in so many ways. The pandemic, the recession, and the impending election have created an endless news cycle that at times seems surreal — like something out of a book.
For author Lois Lowry, this moment in history is oddly reminiscent of her work. Like The Giver, a young adult dystopian novel, which explores a world that prizes conformity above all else, or Number the Stars, which is set in Nazi-occupied Denmark and tells the story of a Jewish family forced to escape their home due to their political persecution.
While the topics of her books are often dark, Lowry says she believes in happy endings. This is perhaps why she is joining the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee to give a lecture, which is called Dwelling in Possibility.
Lowry says she worries about the incredible amount of stress that this year of isolation has created. As an author, she says she knows all about isolation. But when it comes to teenagers and young adults, this isolation may be a new experience. They are beginning to form real and deep thoughts about the world, but many aren't able to do that in a classroom surrounded by friends and classmates. That’s where she hopes books like hers can help.
“For me, my role in it as the writer is presenting these issues to kids without pretending to be able to answer them. But I think books of the sort I write, do play the role of presenting the questions and making them available to kids for discussion,” she says.
She describes receiving an email from a teacher who was upset that The Giver was moved to a different grade in her school curriculum because it created those discussions.
“She talked about what a wonderful vehicle it was for thought and for discussion and debate and those are things that are hard to initiate with kids at that age. They want to be in agreement with all their friends and then they’re presented with all these issues where they are up for discussion,” says Lowry.
From those discussions though, Lowry’s intention is not to begin sowing division amongst kids but to show them that decisions matter and that discussion can help foster better decision making. This is the hope she will be discussing in her lecture.
“I’ve always believed in happy endings. And even now, in these difficult times, I do think we’ll come through it because we always do. I hope we’ll come through it stronger and better,” says Lowry.