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Challenged Books - The Giver

Children's and Young Adult Literature Review
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Censorship Project

[I]'s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be real losers.'-Judy Blume (ALA)

Many books that are considered literary masterpieces have been challenged by public libraries and schools every year. The censor believes that children are impressionable and that books are capable of corrupting them. They want to suppress ideas that are personally repellent to them forcing their own ideology to the exclusion of other ideologies. Usually the reason cited for this suppression and exclusion is for "the protection of children"; however, this type of statement is intended to appeal to the emotions. The positions of the National Council of Teachers of English, in partnership with the International Reading Association, "All students in public school classrooms have the right to material and educational experiences that promote open inquiry, critical thinking, diversity in thought and expression, and respect for others. Denial or restriction of the right is an infringement of intellectual freedom."

Many people think that book banning is something that happened in the distant past. When books are challenged it is generally out of concern that the content of the book will be harmful to the reader. According to ALA, there are four categories of challenged materials:

Family Values


Political Views

Minority Rights

Some of the most frequently challenged children's author in the 2000s have been, J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Gary Paulsen, Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowery and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, according to the American Library Association, which has a detailed on its site. (ALA 2004)

The Giver, which won the 1994 Newbery medal ranked No. 11 on the ALA's most frequently, challenged books of the 1990s. Lois Lowry was inspired to write the story after her father was in a nursing home. He had lost his long-term memory, and it occurred to Lowry that without memory there is no longer pain. (Sparknotes 2004)

The Giver is a novel of life in the future where people experience total control, and knowledge of their history is relegated to one person. It is a utopian society-a perfect world envisioned by its creators. It eliminated fear, pain, hunger, illness, conflict, and hatred. Emotions are not allowed and children are taught to be ashamed of any feelings-sexual or otherwise. Everyone has the same number of family members. Everyone can only see black or white. Everyone follows rules exactly. No one can hear music. No one has individual birthdays, instead everyone is born in the same year and all become "one's" together, and then "twos". There is a ceremony each year where everyone receives the same gift. At the ceremony for "nines" everyone receives a bicycle. This society does not know real death, does not know pain and does not know love. Everyone thinks the same and acts the same. They have chosen sameness over individuality because there are no risks.

At the ceremony of "12s", the children get assigned jobs. Jonas is to be the Receiver, a very honored job, but he does not know what the Receiver does. As Jonas trains with the elderly Receiver, he learned that the Receiver holds all the people's memories of when there was pain, suffering, death and war. The Receiver also held all the memories of real love, true happiness, and individuality. As the Receiver, Jonas learned of the emotions, as well as learned that the existence of color and music. The Receiver kept all the memories away from the society to protect the people from suffering. As the story continues Jonas comes to realize the price that has been paid for his utopian society to exist.

In The Giver Lowery mentions issues that are discussed by politicians and leaders worldwide. Lowey tackles issue of anti-abortion versus pro-life controversy, ethics of a family"s right to end the life a terminally ill family member (euthanasia) and an individual right to end his or her own life (assisted suicide). Questions about reproductive rights and the nature of the family unit due to the advances in genetic and reproductive technology. The willingness to take on these issues in a children's book has made The Giver one of the most frequently censored books in school libraries and curricula. (ALA 2004) Some parents were upset by the novel's depiction off sexuality and violence, and felt that their middle-school aged children are unprepared to deal with issues like euthanasia, abortion, and suicide. According to ALA The Giver has been challenged by parents across the country from New York to Kansa wanting to protect their children from the topics of mind control, abortion, euthanasia, murder, and sexual repression which they believe are not emotional unprepared to read about. The book was banned from classes in California school district after parents complained about violent and sexual passages. Some members of a Montana community were concern about the book"s treatment of themes of infanticide and euthanasia, meaning parents had to give permission for their children to use the book in school.

I believe it is my professional duty to help people understand what it means to live in a country that has the First Amendment and Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which state, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions, without interference, and seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." David Miller, national field director of the Mississippi-based organization Family Association believes that ALA's Freedom To Read Statement is putting children at risk in their libraries. The statement reads, "We, as citizens devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read." (ALA)

No, I do not think this book should be removed for public and school libraries shelves. Is the book for all patron's no. However all reader have the right to choose what books they want to read, one person does not have the right to make that decision for all readers.

It's difficult to predict what book may prompt a challenge, said Lowry. She remains surprised that "The Giver" Which has no explicit se or foul language, created such an uproar."

-Lois Lowry