Imagine living in a world where color is unfamiliar, where teenagers are assigned their life's career at a special ceremony and where babies are birthed by surrogates and assigned to prospective parents through a formal application process.
That is the world of "The Giver," an award-winning novel by Lois Lowry that tells the story of a 12-year-old boy selected to hold the collective memories of an entire culture.
Lowry's imagination runs wild in this dystopian tale and its two sequels, as it does in the more than 25 other novels she has written for teenagers and young adults.
Lowry, a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal for children's fiction, will speak on "The Giver" and the controversy surrounding her work at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood on Nov. 3.
Britt Udesen, director of education and humanities at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, said the center invited Lowry to speak because of her unique connection to the issues surrounding teenagers and the search for identity.
"We invited Lois here as part of our multidisciplinary project, Awkward Stage: Adolescence and Identity, because she is so good at reaching adolescents," Udesen said. "But like all the best children's literature, her work resonates with adults, too."
Lowry's "The Giver" is required reading in middle schools across the nation, including Wood River Middle School in Hailey. It received the Newbery Medal in 1993, despite objections from some parents and school organizations about some of the book's subject matter.
The book depicts a world where people are given pills to suppress sex drive and where twins and infants with birth defects—as well as the elderly—are given lethal injections. The society is highly regimented and structured, though peaceful, which encourages readers to think about whether achieving a perfectly ordered society would be worth giving up color, memories or anything different.
The book was banned in several elementary and middle school libraries. Marshall University's banned book database states that "The Giver" has been banned for being sexually explicit, violent and depicting "occult themes." According to a 2001 article in USA Today, "The Giver" was also challenged because of references to a young girl who kills herself after becoming overwhelmed by the memories of the society.
Lowry said in a press release that she worries about the effect of the controversy on librarians and teachers, and how that may impact readership.
"Even though [teachers and librarians] may like a book and want to teach the book, they don't have time to deal with the bureaucracy that's required," she said. "They are likely to choose a less controversial book."
Lowry is also the author of Newbery medalist "Number the Stars," a novel about a young girl in the Holocaust. Lowry was best known for her Anastasia Krupnik series before her honors, but this series was challenged as well for sexually explicit references as well as references to suicide and underage drinking.
Lowry will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood on Saddle Road in Ketchum. Tickets are $15 for Center members, $25 for nonmembers and $10 for students with I.D.
Lowry will also discuss her work with students at the Wood River Middle School during her time in the valley.