Censorship of Lois Lowry’s The Giver
Every year Kansas students in grades three through eight vote on their favorite of a list of literary works nominated for the William Allen White Award. This award, founded in 1952 honors "one of the state's most distinguished citizens" and journalists (Bogan). A selection committee comprised of representatives of several Kansas educational organizations such as the Department of Education and Association of Teachers of English pool nominations and eventually narrow them to a "master list" of about twenty books. Nominations exemplify "originality . . . vitality . . . and spirit" (Bogun). Once compiled, the master list is sent to schools around the state. At the end of the school year, after students have had time to read the majority of the selections, they vote and select the winner. Despite the suggestion of the William Allen White committee that students need not read every nomination, the Meade Grade School system took the initiative to build a literary appreciation program by requiring students to read all such books. To vote, as prescribed by the White Committee, a student need only read two of the selections. For the Meade students this was also the case, but to have the opportunity to take the annual school-sponsored trip to the presentation of the award, it was necessary to read and pass a computerized test on all books of the Master List. In 1996, however, one selection proved to be one too many for Meade: The Giver.
Controversy over the novel by Lois Lowry began early in the school year when a couple parents of fifth grade students approached the librarian and suggested removing The Giver from the list of required readings. With little dissent, the librarian agreed and removed the selection. I distinctly remember the next day when the librarian addressed the Junior High. Students were no longer required to read The Giver because of "mature" themes that were more appropriate for "upper level" readers. Of course, curious junior high students, assuming that the book contained erotic fantasy or some other equally deviant taboo, immediately rushed to check out the book. Regrettably, I wasn't able to obtain a copy at the first hint of controversy. However, I immediately asked why the book was inappropriate. The librarian successfully dodged my query, further whetting my curiosity regarding what could be unsuitable in a book that was nominated not only for the William Allen White Award, but also several other children's awards.
After the checked out copies had returned, I immediately swiped one and began reading. Lowry brilliantly describes a utopian society where everything is predictable and controlled. Every citizen's occupation-a service to the greater good-defines him or her (52). Any aberrance of communal cooperation is immediately eliminated without question or concern (2). At the age of twelve, one receives his or her assigned place in life according to...