History of the Text
The Giver’s Reception and Publication History: Published in 1993, The Giver was an instant success. The book has sold over five million copies, and the story earned Lowry her second Newbery Medal in 1994. Despite critical acclaim, and due to its sexual and anti-institutional subject matter, the American Library Association reports that The Giver was one of the top 100 banned books from 1990 to 2009.
A Cornerstone of Young Adult Literature: The emergence of young adults as a major literary audience began during the early 20th century in the United States, developing in the wake of anti-child labor laws established in the late 1930s. The Fair Standards Labor Act of 1938 established a minimum working age and limited working hours for youths. As a result, increasing numbers of adolescents stayed in school longer, and a commercial market emerged for novels with adolescent protagonists and coming-of-age themes. Though young adult literature is commonly criticized for being plot driven and lacking depth, The Giver exemplifies the emotional complexity and resonance of the genre. Despite the idiosyncrasies of his community and the largess of his role as Receiver, Jonas is also a teenager who is embarrassed to be different from his friends and struggles with his first romantic feelings. Consequently, The Giver has come to be celebrated as a seminal literary work of young adult fiction.
- Lois Lowry was inspired to write young adult fiction while raising her own four children on the East Coast of the US. She also cites a number of inspirational incidents that lead to the creation of the book, including: spending part of her childhood in an insular, expatriate community in Japan; seeing a fellow classmate ostracized as a college freshman; interviewing a painter who later lost his sight; and visiting her father in a nursing home as he approached ninety, unable to remember her sister’s painful, premature death years before. She described these events as contributory rivers that flowed into the creation of The Giver.