As Lois Lowry stated in her acceptance speech when she won the Newbery Medal for The Giver, she began writing a book that takes place in a utopia, where everything is perfect. She learned from her memories that living in a perfect society is not risk-free, that dangers lurk in a society in which everything is the same and in which the freedom to choose how to live has been given up. Lowry's memories are the basis for The Giver, and her writing conveys lessons about life to her readers.
Lowry lived with her family in an Americanized community in Tokyo, Japan, when she was a young girl. The community was very familiar and safe because it resembled other communities in the United States, where she'd lived earlier in her life. While in Tokyo, Lowry oftentimes rode her bike to visit a nearby Japanese community, where everything was foreign to her, including the language, colors, smells, and even the way people dressed and acted. Lowry used this experience to create the community in which Jonas, the protagonist, or main character, in The Giver, lives. Jonas' community is very predictable, familiar, and safe. Lowry also created Elsewhere, the world outside the community that is believed to be different, dangerous, and inferior.
Years after Lowry interviewed and photographed an artist named Carl Nelson (whose photograph is on the cover of the Laurel-Leaf edition of The Giver), she learned that Nelson had become blind. Because Nelson was a painter, Lowry wondered what it must have been like for Nelson when his world became colorless. Lowry used this situation to create a colorless community in The Giver, where people do not see color; therefore, everything has the same color — none.
Lowry remembered other events that reinforced her belief that memory is necessary and important if we are to live meaningful, well-rounded lives. One event involved her parents, who lived together in the same nursing home when they were older. Lowry's father was in good shape physically, but he had lost most of his memory. Lowry's mother was dying, but she was able to share all of her memories with Lowry. The irony of the situation — a father in good shape physically but without any memory, and a mother in poor health physically but mentally alert — prompted Lowry to realize how important it is to remember and share memories with others. Another event that helped shape The Giver was when a woman, referring to Lowry's book Number the Stars, asked Lowry why incidents relating to the Holocaust have to be told over and over again. Lowry's German-born daughter-in-law told Lowry that such stories have to be repeated so that no one will forget the horror of what happened and allow it to happen again. In The Giver, Jonas understands that memories are necessary so that people can learn from the past and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
Lowry also remembered a time when she and other girls whom she was living with during college completely ignored another girl because the girl was different. When people are perceived as being different in The Giver, they are "released" — in the novel, meaning killed — from the community. Lowry's own memories emphasize the themes in The Giver, including the importance of individuality and freedom of choice, and the need for caring relationships between all human beings despite their differences.