Most people hold dear books that they read as a child. Me, I can barely recall anything I read prior to turning 15 (and those books that I do remember, like the Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure series, hold no special place in my heart). So “Judy Blume” has long been just another author name to me: one of several popular children’s authors, banished to the reserve stacks of my mind’s library.
Only recently have I realized that Judy Blume has been one of the most daring authors of the last 40 years. According to a new Q&A with Moment magazine, she “holds the dubious honor of being the second-most-censored author of the past 15 years, according to the American Library Association.” Her “most frequently challenged” novel (according to the ALA), Forever, tells the story of a high school senior named Katherine who had premarital sex and enjoyed it. (Maybe if it weren’t banned when I were a kid, I would have a sharper memory of Blume.)
Sixty-second on the list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blume’s 1970 novel about a daughter of a Jewish father and Christian mother who questions her religious identity and sexual development. In 2005, Time magazine named it one of the top 100 English-language novels of the 20th century.
Blume tells Moment about her own experiences interdating as a teenager and the inspiration for the novel:
I think the decision to make Margaret half-Jewish grew out of my own early experiences and my curiosity about my brother’s life–he had married a Gentile. He had two young sons by then, who, as far as I knew, didn’t even think about religion.
She also has some interesting things to say about her Orthodox upbringing and what she learned about sex as a child.
I’m nearly inspired to re-read the book–if I can get past the creep factor of entering the children’s section of the library and checking out a novel for preteens.
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