Lois Lowry (born Lois Ann Hammersberg Biography on March 20, 1937) is an American author of children's literature. She began her career as a photographer and a freelance journalist during the early 1970s. Her work as a journalist drew the attention of Houghton Mifflin and they encouraged her to write her first children's book, A Summer to Die, which was published in 1977 (when Lowry was 40 years old). She has since written more than 30 books for children and published an autobiography. Two of her works have been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal: Number the Stars in 1990, and The Giver in 1994.
As an author, Lowry is known for writing about difficult subject matters within her works for children. She has explored such complex issues as racism, terminal illness, murder, and the Holocaust among other challenging topics. She has also explored very controversial issues of questioning authority such as in The Giver Trilogy. Her writing on such matters has brought her both praise and criticism. In particular, her work The Giver has been met with a diversity of reactions from schools in America, some of which have adopted her book as a part of the mandatory curriculum, while others have prohibited the book's inclusion in classroom studies..
Lowry was born on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to parents Robert and Katharine (Landis) Hammersberg. Initially, Lois' parents named her "Sena" for her Norwegian grandmother but upon hearing this, her grandmother telegraphed and instructed Lois' parents that the child should have an American name. Her parents chose the names Lois and Ann, which were the names of her father's sisters.
Lowry was born the middle of three children. She had an older sister, Helen, and a younger brother Jon. Helen, three years older than Lois, died in 1962 at the age of 28. This experience informed Lowry's first book A Summer to Die which is about a young girl who tragically loses her older sister (which is also a subplot of Number the Stars). Lowry's brother Jon is six years younger than her and grew up to be a doctor. He and Lois continue to enjoy a close relationship. Lois Lowry - Biography
Lowry's father was a career military officer - an Army dentist , - whose work moved the family all over the United States and to many parts of the world. Lowry and her family moved from Hawaii to Brooklyn, New York, in 1939 when Lowry was two years old and later relocated to her mother's hometown, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1942 when Lowry's father was deployed to the Pacific during World War II. Lowry's father served on a hospital ship called the USS Hope and on the island of Tinian during the war.
Following World War II, Lowry and her family moved to Tokyo, Japan, where her father was stationed from 1948-1950. Lowry went through junior high school at the Tokyo American School at Meguro, a special school for the children of military families, and then returned to the United States to attend high school. Lowry and her family briefly lived in Carlisle again in 1950 before moving to Fort Jay at Governors Island, New York, where Lois attended Curtis High School on Staten Island. In 1952, Lois entered Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, New York, where she finished high school. Lowry entered Brown University in 1954. She attended for two years until her marriage at age 19 to Donald Lowry, a U.S. Navy officer, in 1956. Together they had four children: daughters Alix and Kristin, and sons Grey and Benjamin. Lowry,Lois
The Lowrys moved quite frequently in their early years of marriage due to Donald's military career. They lived in California, Connecticut (where Alix was born), Florida (where Grey was born), South Carolina, and finally Cambridge, Massachusetts (where Kristin and Benjamin were born). The family settled in Cambridge after Donald left military service to attend Harvard Law School. After Donald Lowry finished law school, the family moved to Portland, Maine.
As her children became older, Lowry found time to complete her degree in English literature from the University of Southern Maine in Portland in 1972. After earning her B.A., she pursued graduate studies at her alma mater. It was during this coursework that she was introduced to photography, which became a life-long passion as well as a profession. Her specialty was child photography, but she also took pictures to accompany the articles she submitted as a freelance journalist. It was while working on a freelance journalism piece for Redbook magazine that Lowry got her first book opportunity, when the article she wrote caught the attention of an editor at Houghton Mifflin publishing. The story Lowry had written for the magazine was meant for adults but was written through the eyes of a child. The editor at Houghton Mifflin recognized an upcoming talent and suggested that Lowry write a children's book. She agreed and wrote A Summer to Die which was published in 1977. As Lowry nurtured her budding careers, she and Donald Lowry found they were no longer compatible; they divorced in 1977 when Lowry was 40 years old. Lowry said the following of these transitional years of her life: "My children grew up in Maine. So did I. I returned to college at the University of Southern Maine, got my degree, went to graduate school, and finally began to write professionally, the thing I had dreamed of doing since those childhood years when I had endlessly scribbled stories and poems in notebooks."
Writing about both funny things and serious issues has sustained Lois Lowry through her own hard times. Her son Grey was killed in the crash of his fighter plane in 1995. Lowry has acknowledged that this was the most difficult day of her life, but through her steady work as an author, she has persevered. Lowry said, "His death in the cockpit of a warplane tore away a piece of my world. But it left me, too, with a wish to honor him by joining the many others trying to find a way to end conflict on this very fragile earth."
Today, Lois Lowry remains active by not only continuing to write and speaking at appearances, but also enjoying time with her long-time companion Martin Small at her homes in Massachusetts and Maine. Lois takes pleasure in reading, knitting, gardening, and entertaining her four grandchildren.
Lowry wrote of her hope for the future recently on her blog, "I am a grandmother now. For my own grandchildren - and for all those of their generation - I try, through writing, to convey my passionate awareness that we live intertwined on this planet and that our future depends upon our caring more, and doing more, for one another."
Lowry has suggested that she is a Christian, but not so religious as "to have a favorite psalm."