—By Michelle Lindsey
Iowans were in for a laughter and tear filled night last week when Lois Lowry, children’s author of books such as, “The Giver” and “A Summer to Die,” dropped into the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, for a heart-to-heart with her fans. The venue was the perfect mixture of old architecture, dating back to the 1920s, and the fighting spirit it contains.
Lowry spent the evening of November 16th chatting about the inspiration behind each of her books and recalling memories from her childhood. The conversation she had with audience members centered around a PowerPoint presentation that included photos of her childhood and of various family members. The fact that she had been traveling around the country speaking to numerous audiences about her books was shown in the ease of which she handled the crowd and the level of comfort she seemed to feel with her “new friends.”
Audience members that had never met Lowry were pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of her tone and her grandmotherly like qualities. She said that she felt comfortable in Iowa and the room erupted in applause when it was said that she, “even managed to meet quite a few Democrats.”
Fans, especially longtime fans, in attendance were enthralled with her and hung onto every word she spoke. The crowd wasn’t very diverse, with mostly women and their daughters waiting patiently to speak with Lowry during the Q & A session promised for the end of the night. There were a few men that lingered to buy her autographed books as well, as Christmas presents for family members.
Lowry spent a great deal of time connecting with the audience by acknowledging the connection readers feel to authors of their favorite books. She mentioned other authors that she had discovered interesting things about. There was one particular author she had adored who had his own fancy; “Robert Gottlieb collects plastic purses” she quipped. Elaborating on this fact further she offered, “Now frankly, I’m not at all sure that in person I could really be intimately involved with a man who collects women’s purses. But still, I loved knowing that detail of his life.”
Fascinated with kintsugi, a Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, Lowry shared her love of the art. She said, “the theory of kintsugi is that something can become more beautiful, more valuable if it has been broken.”
The night was full of humor for both the adults and teenagers in the room, but the conversation kept coming back to this idea of being beautifully broken.
After the lecture and a lengthy Q&A session, the University of Iowa Lecture Committee, represented by Sarah Tortora, presented Lowry with the 2016-17 Distinguished Lecturer award. Tortora said, “It is my honor to name Ms. Lois Lowry as our distinguished lecturer for 2016-17,” and a standing ovation broke out with loud applause and silent tears falling throughout the venue.
Most of the crowd stuck around to have their books signed by the author and waited in line for upwards of an hour. After reaching her table and speaking with her for a moment, fans were seen leaving the theater giddy and awestruck over having met the distinguished author and lecturer.