Lois Lowry was born on March 20, 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Katharine, a teacher, and Robert Hammersberg, an army dentist stationed near Pearl Harbor. Lois, her siblings, and her mother moved to Pennsylvania before the Pearl Harbor bombings in 1941. By her own account, Lowry's childhood was safe, happy, and predictable. Her father was deployed for several years, so Lowry grew up largely without his presence.
Lowry learned to read at an early age, and she loved to create stories in her mind as a child. She graduated from high school at sixteen and matriculated at Pembroke College, a women’s college that was connected to and later became part of Brown University. She studied writing with the hope of becoming a novelist. However, like many of her female peers in the 1950s, Lowry married before completing college and turned her attention to being a homemaker.
She married naval officer Donald Grey Lowry in 1956 and spent the next several years raising their four children: Alix, Grey, Kristin, and Benjamin. Donald pursued his law degree at Harvard, while Lois stayed at home with the children until they reached adulthood. Eventually, she returned to school to complete her degree at the University of Southern Maine in 1972. She continued on to attend graduate school at USM. During this time, Lowry started publishing short stories and writing textbooks.
After divorcing Donald in 1977, Lois Lowry published A Summer to Die, her first novel. A Summer to Die is the story of Meg Chalmers, a teenage girl who has a complicated relationship with her older sister Molly. Molly's battle with a terminal disease forces Meg to reevaluate her own life as she comes to understand her love for her sister. Lowry got the idea for the novel from her own life; her older sister Helen lost her fight with cancer when Lowry was twenty-five.
Over the next few years, Lowry wrote and published several novels, including a series of books about Anastasia Krupnik, a girl on the brink of adolescence who often finds herself in humorous situations. Alongside these more comic works, Lowry wrote a number of more serious novels, such as Rabble Starkey (1987). Parable Ann, also known as Rabble, lives in the rural Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, and the story is centered on love and family.
Lowry received the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature twice in her career. She earned the first one in 1990 for Number the Stars. The novel tells story of young Annemarie Johansen, a Danish gentile living in Copenhagen during World War II. She and her family risk their lives to help Jews escape from Nazi-controlled Denmark into Sweden.
Lowry received her second Newbery Medal in 1993 for The Giver. The Giver is the story of Jonas, a boy living in a dystopian society. One day, he becomes the new Receiver of Memory - a respected but lonely and difficult position which, Jonas learns, involves protecting all of society's memories. Eventually, Jonas decides he must escape the community in order to return his memories to society, and the novel's ambiguous ending leaves the question of Jonas's fate unanswered.
Lois Lowry published more several novels during the 2000s, including Gathering Blue and Messenger, both of which are set in the same dystopian environment as The Giver. One of America's most celebrated young adult novelists, Lois Lowry has engaged millions of readers with her careful and sensitive stories dealing with major issues like death, cancer, and the Holocaust. She remains an active writer.
Study Guides on Works by Lois Lowry
The Giver combines themes of young adult fiction, such as that of the protagonist Jonas's coming of age, with themes taken from dystopian novels such as George Orwell's 1984 or in particular Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which deals with a...
Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel. It follows the journey of 10-year-old Annemarie Johansen after the Nazi invasion of Denmark in 1943. Annemarie must help her Jewish best friend, Ellen Rosen, escape the country. Lowry got the idea...