The introduction was lovely:
Name a book that was important to you as a kid. A novel that helped you negotiate the challenges of changing body, changing identity and general grappling with life’s big changes. I bet many of you will pick a novel by Judy Blume. Because if there was something that was troubling you, something you couldn’t talk to your parents, teachers of friends about. You could always go to the library and discreetly sign out a worn out copy of Are you there God?, It’s me Margaret. Or Blubber. Or Forever. Shut the door to your room. Find some solace. Because Judy and her characters understood what you were going through and didn’t judge.
For almost four decades Judy Blume has written about the things that children and adults have a hard time talking about: religion, racism, divorce, bullying, teenage sexual choices, menstruation, masturbation. She has published 28 books since 1969 with 75 million copies sold worldwide. Not one of them is out of print.
I remember reading Judy Blume’s books in elementary school. I don’t remember if I liked her books, but I do remember reading them because my classmates said there were dirty words and sex. I think I was disappointed at the sex content (in Forever the 18 year old guy refers to his penis as Ralph, I mean, c’mon…), but I read everything she wrote.
She talks about writing, being a writer, her dislike for categorizing books as “girls’ books” or “boys’ books” and writing provocative stuff. When Jian asks her about how she felt in the 80s when many of her books were challenged and banned, she replies:
I felt alone, and frightened. For a long time, until I realized I wasn’t alone and I came together with the National Coalition Against Censorship. When you go out and begin to stand up and speak out, because in those days publishers didn’t speak out for us… I certainly knew that when I was writing Forever, that this book might get me in trouble. But I had a 14 year old daughter at the time who was reading books that linked sexuality with punishment. I thought that was a very bad message to be sending to young people. So I wanted to write a book where two 18 year olds take responsibility for their own actions, and when they become sexually active they are responsible kids. This is not the best way to go about writing a book, but I’m glad that I wrote it. And I’m glad that it spoke to so many kids.
There’s also some interesting essays on her website about her thoughts on censorship.
Did you read Judy Blume’s books? What are your recommendations for really great YA/teen books that tackle difficult issues without being didactic?