Sunday, May 1, 2011

Looking Back: A Book of Memories

Written by: Lois Lowry

Usually, I do not find myself researching the personal lives of the authors of the books that I read.  If I find a book that I like, I’ll read others by the same author, but do not go much farther than that.  Perhaps I had never realized the connection between the author’s life and the fiction that they had created.

Prior to reading, The Giver, I was already made aware of many of the challenges associated with the book.    In a discussion with a friend, I was urged to read Lois Lowry’s Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver.  After reading the speech, Lois Lowry became a real person to me.  The speech was beautifully crafted and confirmed that Lois Lowry was truly a storyteller.  Lowry’s autobiography, Looking Back: A Book of Memories, confirms the same—as she eloquently tells the stories of her life simply as memories of her past. 

Lowry provides an introduction for readers that introduces us to the concept of the book, “It has no plot.  It is about moments, memories, fragments, falsehoods, and fantasies.  It is about things that happened which caused other things to happen, so that eventually stories emerged.”  Lowry is often asked how she gets the ideas for her stories.  In her autobiography, she tries to answer a few of the questions she has gotten over the years and tries to help us understand that stories come from memories.

Lowry begins each chapter of her autobiography with a quote from one of her books.  The books included are The Giver, All About Sam, Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye, Anastasia (series), Autumn Street, Rabble Starkey, Stay! Keeper’s Story, The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline, A Summer to Die, Us and Uncle Fraud, and Number the Stars.  Sadly, of all the titles mentioned, I have only recently read The Giver.  Although I read Number the Stars and books from the Anastasia series in the past, I do not recall the details of them specifically enough to help me see where the ideas stemmed from that Lowry mentions.

This autobiography has prompted me to want to read more books written by Lois Lowry.  I am particularly interested in reading Autumn Street and A Summer to Die.  I would like to see how the autobiography would continue if it were to be updated to present time.  I know it would still be of memories, but I cannot help but wonder what new memories Lowry has.   

Even though Lowry’s autobiography was copyrighted in 1998, you can still access more current information on Lowry through her blog and her website.  Lowry has many speeches available for viewing on her website and they are all written in the same style as her Newbery Acceptance speech for The Giver and of her autobiography.  She continues to talk about memories and the spark that they have for her ideas.  I urge you to read her speeches and explore her blog in order to get more of an insider look into who Lowry is.

I now choose to find out more information on authors of the books that I read.  It has become so interesting to me to find out information about the personal life of the author and see how that has become intertwined with the stories created.

Lowry ends with a memory from the year 1995 in her chapter entitled, “Giving.”  Her granddaughter, at the age of two, is reading a book along with her grandfather.  She relates this to Jonas in, The Giver.  “Jonas looks at the books of the Giver, and realizes that one day they will be his.”  Finally she concludes, that we are all Givers because we hold the knowledge of centuries as we recall our memories and pass them along.  I had never thought of us all as Givers before, but now I realize that regardless of whether or not we are published storytellers—what are we without our memories?

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