The Giver: Biography

Lois Lowry was born Cena Ericson Hammersberg on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Major Robert (an Army dentist) and Katherine Hammersberg (a teacher).  Cena’s name was changed to Lois Ann a few weeks later, at the request of Robert’s mother. When Lois was two years old, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York. Her father during this time did military training and then was deployed to the Pacific where he served on a hospital ship during World War II


From 1942 to 1948, Lois lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her family. She attended Franklin Elementary School. It was also during this time that she began her dreams of becoming a writer.


In 1948, her family moved to Tokyo, Japan, to be with her father while he was stationed there during reconstruction. Although they lived in an American house surrounded by American neighbors, Lois would venture off into the Tokyo suburbs to explore. She was never afraid, but she was shy and did not talk to anyone.


In 1950, the family moved back to Pennsylvania while her father stayed in Japan. Here Lois began high school, and in 1951, they moved to Governor’s Island, New York, where her father was stationed. She finished high school in Brooklyn Heights. Upon graduating from Packer Collegiate Institute, she went on to Brown University but dropped out to marry Donald Grey Lowry, a U.S. Navy officer. She was nineteen.


The couple had their first child in 1958, Alix, while living in Connecticut. A son, Donald Grey, was born in Florida in 1959. From 1960 to 1963, Lois’s husband began studies at Harvard Law School while living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1961, their daughter Kristin was born.


In 1962, their son Benjamin was born at the same time Lois’s sister Helen died from cancer. This was to later serve as material for her first book, A Summer to Die.


Lois’s husband graduated from Harvard Law School, and they moved to Portland, Maine. Lois enrolled at University of Southern Maine and received her BA in 1972. It was during this time she started selling nonfiction articles and textbooks. In 1975, her first published short story, “Crow Call,” appeared in Redbook.


She divorced the same year her first novel, A Summer to Die, was published in 1977.  She was forty years old. She moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1979 and began to date Martin Small. She continued to write, and her first series title, Anastasia Krupnik, was published in 1980.


She bought a summer home in New Hampshire in 1983. In 1990, Lowry received the Newbery Medal for Number the Stars. She moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Small. A second Newbery was awarded in 1994 for The Giver. 


Another tragedy struck when her son, Donald, was killed in a plane crash in 1995.  Lois shared her feelings in her memoir she later wrote, Looking Back, published in 1998. In 2002, she moved from New Hampshire to Maine.


In 2006, a film adaptation of her novel, The Giver, was being considered. Another very prestigious award came her way in 2007 from The American Library Association: the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement. 


In 2008, her novel Gossamer was performed as a play in Wisconsin and Oregon. Finally in 2009, her first published short story, “Crow Call,” was released as an illustrated book.


According to Lois’s Web site, she has written a short story for Chris Van Allsburg’s book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.  On October 27th, 2011, an illustrated gift edition of The Giver was available. The Giver has also been translated into Russian.  


In her biography on her Web site,, Lowry states: “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.”


As of 2011, Lowry lives alone in Cambridge, with her dog, Alfie, and her cat, Lulu. She divides her time in Maine visiting her grandchildren in her 1768 farmhouse.