How Did I Miss “The Giver?”

The Giver sized upThe movie is coming.  I saw the trailer.  But it wasn’t the story I thought it was; it turns out that all these years the book I remembered as Lois Lowry’s The Giver was in fact Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s The Keeper!.  Which is pretty embarrassing given that I reviewed that one for The Washington Post.  And The Giver?  I hadn’t even read it.

Yesterday I did.  I so wish I had been 14 when I found it, but it was published in 1993 and won the Newbery Medal in 1994 so that’s past not only my 14th birthday but that of one of my son’s!  It’s very gripping and beautifully written, but there’s been so much YA dystopian fiction since then that it’s hard to imagine the punch in the gut it must have been when it appeared.

As a veteran of the Divergent trilogy and The Hunger Games (and, ok, the Twilight Series but they don’t count) as well as countless post-nuclearholocaust novels and a ton of cyberfiction, I’m an old hand in this neck of the woods.  Even so, the intent of The Giver is a little different.   There’s no hunger, no war, not even any pain.  It’s a twisted version of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Except, of course, it isn’t.

The “sameness” that rules this world has murdered color and music and laughter and love.  Oh – and babies, too.  One person, “the Giver” is the sole custodian of all memories of the bitter, the painful and the sad.   We know this will not stand.  And that’s the point.

We had a sign up in my college dorm – a banner across the front porch: “Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” — William Faulkner, The Wild Palms  Those are the words and feelings of young people and artists.  And it is the battle against nothing the Lowry offers her young readers.  As she told the New York Times:   “Kids deserve the right to think that they can change the world.”

When the Giver helps our young hero Jonas decide that beauty and emotion are worth the terrible prices we pay to be fully human, we are all empowered to imagine that we can — no must, join him.  Take a stand.  Change a mind.  Solve a problem.  Correct an injustice.  Fall in love.  Break our hearts or someone else’s.  Be alive.

And that’s the power of The Giver, as the rest of you have probably known for years.


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Cynthia Samuels

Cynthia Samuels is a long-time blogger, writer, producer and Managing Editor. She has an extensive background online, on television and in print, with particular experience developing content for women, parents and families. For the past nine years, that experience has been largely with bloggers, twitter and other social media, most recently at Care2's Causes Channels, which serve 20 million members (13 million when she joined) and cover 16 subject areas. In her three years at Care2 monthly page views grew tenfold, from 450,000 to 4 million. She has been part a member of BlogHer since 2006 years and has spoken at several BlogHer conferences. Among her many other speaking appearances is Politics Online, Fem 2.0 Conference and several other Internet gatherings. She’s also run blogger outreach for clients ranging from EchoDitto to To the Contrary. Earlier, she spent nearly four years with iVillage, the leading Internet site for women; her assignments included the design and supervision of the hugely popular Education Central, a sub-site of Parent Soup that was a soup-to-nuts parent toolkit on K-12 education, designed to support parents as advocates and supporters of their school-age kids. She also served as the iVillage partner for America Links Up, a major corporate Internet safety initiative for parents, ran Click! – the computer channel - and had a long stint as iVillage's Washington editor. In addition, she has developed parent content for Jim Henson Interactive and served as Children’s Book Editor for both and Barnes and Before moving online, she had a long and distinguished career as a broadcast journalist, as senior national editor of National Public Radio, political and planning producer of NBC's Today Show (whose audience is 75% women) where she worked for nine years (and was also the primary producer on issues relating to child care, education, learning disabilities and child development), and as the first executive producer of Channel One, a daily news broadcast seen in 12,000 U.S. high schools. She has published a children’s book: It’s A Free Country, a Young Person’s Guide to Politics and Elections (Atheneum, 1988) and numerous children’s book reviews in the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post Book World. A creator of online content since 1994, Samuels is a partner at The Cobblestone Team, LLC, is married to a doctor and recent law school graduate and has two grown sons who make video games, two amazing daughters-in-law and three adorable grandsons.

One thought on “How Did I Miss “The Giver?””

  1. Interesting that I read your post on the The Giver immediately after I saw your pcdc email about Robin Williams’ death and depression. Your description of the quote by Faulkner “Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” — William Faulkner, The Wild Palms as the words and feelings of young people and artists is correct, but dealing with those feelings even as an artist can be overwhelming as we see when some take their own lives.

    I believe that none of us escapes depression if we live and feel fully in our lives. I have battled it and my brother who battles it daily. No one escapes. Not sure why we must experience this condition, but learning to put it to good use and manage it is the reason we have art in all forms.

    I never read “The Giver” but now I will. Both my kids have read it, I believe. Thanks for the reminder.

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