Today we celebrate the birth of another great writer, Judy Blume, born this day in 1938.
I know it’s safe to say, that it is Judy’s spectacular novel, “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret,” is the “Little Women” of the 21st Century.
No other character since Jo March has captivated the minds of pre- and post-pubescent girls as Margaret does and continues to do since this book was published in 1970. Margaret, a 12-year-old suburban New Jersey girl, has a deep relationship with God. She does not view him as a deity, so much, but as her closest confident. She asks him questions she does not feel safe asking anyone else in the world.
Here’s where our male readers may become skirmish a bit (apologies, Bruce). Among Margaret’s many questions to God are related to her breast development and menstruation.
Could you imagine if I tried to slip a paragraph about menstruation in Little Women???? First, the publisher, who was male, probably would have had to ask someone what it meant. Then when he was told, he would have had a heart attack and died right there on the spot. Dead. Gone. The end – CPR not being invented yet.
I would have been run out of town before the funeral. I’d spend the rest of my life hiding out in people’s root cellars like a fugitive slave. People did not use the word menstruation or openly write about the growing anxiety among adolescent girls and their missing breasts back in 1868. That does not mean it didn’t happen. It just means that no one spoke or wrote about it.
Not that it was any easier when Judy dared to create a lead character who represented every 12-year-old female who ever lived. “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” found its way on the censored list. Bookshelves in schools and public libraries banished it. Our dear Judy was even called a communist. Here is an excerpt written by Judy.
Communism? There were few challenges to my books then, although I remember the night a woman phoned, asking if I had written Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. When I replied that I had, she called me a Communist and slammed down the phone. I never did figure out if she equated Communism with menstruation or religion, the two major concerns in 12 year old Margaret’s life.
Judy continues to advocate against censorship. We just love her.
My publicist has fond memories of reading “Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret” back in the early 1970s. Her best friend, who has the same name as my pub, a birthday three days after, and hair slightly lighter (before they both hit “the bottle.”), had been given the book by an older sister. (How my pub wanted an older sister!!!).
The two girls would sit together in tree branches about 15 feet off the ground and discuss Margaret, God, Margaret’s friends, the kids she didn’t like, etc., as if Margaret was a prominent member of their own social circle. They shared reading passages aloud to each other, commenting on the intensity of the words.
Margaret did for them what Jo did for their great-great grandmothers 102 years earlier. She gave them a voice and validated their feelings.
Thank you, Judy.
Judy Blume is by now a household name, and rightfully so. She has published 28 novels already and continues to write, which we are thrilled about. Great writers should never stop writing.
Happy Birthday to one of the greats! xo, LMA