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Are You There Judy?…
I’ve got a question for you.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Ralph?
If you just chuckled, blushed and reverted back to your 13 year old self, you must have been a big fan of Judy Blume books.
Like most girls who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, I was obsessed.
Starting with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great when I was in about second grade, I was hooked. I think I’d read every book she’d written by the time I was in sixth grade (and yes, that includes Forever, which was questionable and beyond shocking at that age, for sure, but remember, by age nine I’d already seen Grease).
Judy Blume was my favorite and most influential teacher. Menstruation, divorce, race relations and discrimination, masturbation and sex — Judy Blume tackled them all, and in a time, unlike today, when all those issues weren’t acceptable, and common, dinner conversation. She helped raise an entire generation of pre-teen girls with her honest and heartfelt stories that became, in my case at least, constant companions and trusted textbooks for navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence.
There wasn’t one Judy Blume book I didn’t like, from the obvious favorites like Are You There God… and Blubber (which to this day makes this girl who hates conflict uncomfortable — not to mention tape her mailbox shut every Halloween), to the not as obvious Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, which after reading and re-reading caused me to carry Sally around with me in my head for months. My sister and I entertained ourselves during the long summer days in 1978 (pre-computers and cable TV) by acting out, in great detail, the plots from every Judy Blume book we’d read. I’m not kidding, it took us all summer. Iggie’s House was a challenge, and I’m pretty positive we skipped Forever, but we knew every word of those books, and brought them to life with a cast of two.
A few days ago I read an article in Entertainment Weekly about Judy Blume, and about how she and her son are bringing Tiger Eyes to the big screen and OnDemand. It’s taken years of red tape and failed promises and creative differences to make happen, but they were finally able to do it their way and with ownership. And I’ve gotta admit, as much as I like a good movie adaptation of a favorite book and as happy as I am that they were able to make a movie they’re proud of, I haven’t decided if I’ll be watching. Not having all my favorite Blume stories ripped out of my head where they’ve lived for over 35 years and reconstructed on the movie or television screen is part of what has kept them sacred. Linda Fischer, Deenie, Sally — they’ve all looked the same in my imagination since I was 12, and I think I’d like to keep Davey, the protagonist of Tiger Eyes, that way, too.
But regardless, I’m extremely happy that there’s a new generation of girls who’ll be led to Judy Blume books as a result of watching the movie. In a time when it seems young girls get much of their education via YouTube and reality shows, they could use a few honest lessons from Mrs. Blume.
Last week we were going through a big box of old books with the Things and deciding what to keep and what to donate, and we came across my old copy of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, yellowed and dog-eared. Thing 1 immediately grabbed it and shouted, “I LOVE this book!” and told Thing 2 she had to read it.
That book was published in 1970.
I’d say 43 years of popularity and relevance is a pretty good indication of a phenomenal teacher, wouldn’t you?
What were your favorite Judy Blume books?
Click this box if you read Forever…and hid it from your mom.