Long before the advent of the Internet, which made every taboo subject accessible with the click of a mouse, subjects like the human body and how it worked weren’t the stuff of everyday conversation, let alone mainstream discussion. Enter Judy Blume in 1970 with her breakthrough book, Are You There, God?It’s Me, Margaret. and it revolutionized not only the landscape of publishing but also made it okay for young girls to talk about their bodies – something which simply wasn’t done back then. The book was considered shocking in its day because it dealt with several sensitive topics in which a sixth-grade girl named Margaret, who was growing up without any religious affiliation, searches for a single religion while dealing with female issues such as buying her first bra, getting her first period and coping with her budding feelings of jealousy and her first crush. These may seem like commonplace issues in today’s world but back in 1970, these topics were considered off limits in books and certainly not the appropriate stuff of children’s books.
A lifelong avid reader, Judy Blume first began writing when her children were attending preschool. She published her first book, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo in 1969. Blume’s books, which targeted children and young adults, put her on the publishing map because they dealt with decidedly adult subject matter such as racism in Iggie’s House, menstruation in Are You There God?It’s Me, Margaret., divorce in It’s Not the End of the World, bullying in Blubber, masturbation in Deenie and teen sex in Forever. While Blume’s books have generated discussion, they’ve also had their fair share of controversy regarding age-appropriate reading material and have also been the subject of censorship, something which Blume herself is strongly against.
In 1996, Judy Blume won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her contribution to writing for teens. She’s also won more than 90 literary awards, including three lifetime achievement awards in the U.S. and, in April, 2000, the Library of Congress named her to its Living Legends in the Writers and Artists category for her significant contributions to America’s cultural heritage – pretty impressive achievements for the nice Jewish kid who “spent most of her childhood making up stories inside her head”.
Blume has also applied her writing talent to adult books.Her novels, Wifey in 1978 and Smart Women in 1983 shot to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. Her most recent adult novel, Summer Sisters in 1998, sold more than three million copies, spending more than five months on The New York Times bestseller list.
And surprisingly or not, Blume’s popularity as a writer for teens and young adults has continued to endure, despite the changes in social mores. Many of her books have had countless print runs and cover changes while others have been amended to bring them into this century. So whether you’re a woman who grew up with a dog-eared copy of Margaret hidden inside your binder or you’re a more recent fan of Blume’s Fudge series of books, no doubt you’ll all agree that the secret to Blume’s lasting appeal lies in her honesty and in her ability to tell a good story which keeps her readers coming back for more, time and time again.