Judy Blume, A Love Letter

I knew I wasn’t the only one! Who loves Judy Blume, I mean. Obvs. Two awesome bloggers, Dana from the Kitchen Witch and Kim from Gane Possible have created this incredible project, aptly titled, The Judy Blume Project, for all of us writers and readers who love JB. They invited any like-minded folks to write about their own personal Blume-esque experience.

blume-button

So, here’s mine…

The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard

The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard

I have always been a reader, and fortunately, I had the kind of parents who put up with my (obsessive) habit. I read in bed, on couches, at the kitchen table, while walking down the street, leaning against trees, and even in movie theaters and concerts (I never left home without a book in hand). It was like my adolescent security blanket.

I had a t-shirt with this crazy lady on it. Still do, actually.

I had a t-shirt with this crazy lady on it. Still do, actually.

Reading was my comfort, my pleasure, my escape. I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite young adult authors was – and still is – Judy Blume. She is a prolific author with a gift for writing in both female and male voices, but for obvious reasons, I gravitated to her books about adolescent girls. I loved their awkwardness, confusion, humor, and social anxiety. It mirrored my own. I read and reread Deenie, Starring Sally J. Friedman As Herself, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tiger Eyes and others, wishing I could reach into the worn pages and pull out the characters. Blume’s stories nourished me, they were my surrogate friends, and in some ways, they taught me how to be a person.

Blubber, about the bullying of an overweight girl, was tough to get through. I read it with butterflies in my stomach the entire time, and whenever I thought about stopping, I kept on. Writing a book in the voice of a less than sympathetic character, Blume forced the reader to share the perpetrators’ perspective, an uncomfortable place to be. The lessons I learned about the consequences of choosing cruelty over compassion, taking the easier road over the higher one, and the price you pay for both, astounded and confounded my adolescent self. They still do.

Years later, in my early twenties, I had the opportunity to meet my hero, the author whose words shaped me, and helped solidify my desire to become a writer. I lived in Manhattan where celebrity sightings were as common as pigeons, yet I was never more star-struck than that evening.

When I saw her across the room at a National Book Award party in Gracie Mansion, I was terribly nervous. The fear of making a fool of myself was high on my list of anxieties, but so was another concern that I couldn’t put a finger on at the time. Now, I see what was at risk: a deflation of my admiration.

Well, turns out I had no need to worry. Judy was so gracious, smiling kindly as I spilled out my lifelong love for her stories, and together we talked about her books and writing.

Oh, be still my heart. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the night.

I still remember talking to my mother on the phone as I walked home, dazed and gloriously happy in the cool night air, under the blazing city lights.

Thank you Judy Blume for meeting every one of my expectations, and blazing such a kickass trail of stories that helped shape a generation, and beyond.

Did you read Judy as a kid? Tell me your favorites. If not, what were (or are!) some beloved Young Adult novels?

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17 thoughts on “Judy Blume, A Love Letter

  1. Blubber was my Waterloo, as well–except it came later for me–when I re-read all of Judy’s books for the project last year. I did NOT remember Jill being as complicit in the bullying, and I had a completely different read of the book when I read it as an adult. I think that’s an interesting part of the project–re-reading your favorite JB books as an adult, and what changes for you. Kudos to you for understanding Jill’s part in everything as a young reader. You obviously were incredibly compassionate, even as a girl.

    • Thanks so much Dana. You know, I think I read Blubber later in my adolescence. It’s possible I started and stopped it once or twice before getting through it. I just so clearly remember the discomfort in reading it, probably because at some point or another I was complicit in being a bystander to bullying (not the bully, I was too shy and nerdy myself!). I’m definitely curious to reread JB now, after so many years! Thanks again for this great project.

  2. Wow, you met Judy Blume! That’s awesome! I would have been star struck too!I am a massive fan, so good to hear that she lived up to her image. Deenie and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret were my favourites, I should definitely re-read her books to see what I missed as a young reader. Ohh and I also read she will be releasing an adult novel, that should be interesting!

    • Thanks Naomi! Meeting her was definitely a highlight of my life. I plan on rereading some of my faves one of these days, but I need to order some copies first since all mine fell apart years ago!

  3. Dana! Beautifully done and thank you so much for contributing to the #JudyBlumeProject! I’m happy to hear Judy still deserves to ride the pedestal of adolescent girls (and former girls) everywhere, too. And of course she does. Judy Blume is such a wonderful example of how powerful books and our words as writers can be. She has impacted countless children who have grown to adults who impact their own children by sharing Judy’s books with them. *sigh* What an incredible institution she is. Which is why Dana Talusani and I created this project. We’re delighted and grateful to have you along for the ride! Cheers!

  4. Books we read in our youth shape us in a way that books we read as adults cannot. I loved Are You There God, but I think I remember Where the Red Fern Grows with the most fondness. Even though it made me cry, I’ll never forget hearing my teacher read it and the catch she had in her voice at certain points. I’ve read it numerous times since.

  5. Dana so nice when someone you admire lives up to their reputation. I love this post and was a bookworm myself, most happy when dropped at the library, where I would get lost among the stories and procrastinate about which ones I would take home.

  6. I’ve written about my childhood weight demons before. I was in elementary school in the late 70’s – early 80′. Very small town. Back then there wasn’t a childhood obesity problem so even being just a little overweight you’d stand out. The year we read Blubber it was with the teacher who always made us go around the room and read out loud from whatever book we were on. I was already so shy and introverted because of the weight the last thing I wanted to do was stand up in front of the class…ever…but esp not to read Blubber. At that age and during that time none of my classmates made any sort of personal connection to the subject matter or were like ‘hey this is actually relevant to how we treat her we shouldn’t do that’. I remember crying myself to sleep so many nights and being so happy when we moved on to the next book. To this day just the the name of the book brings tears when I think about how horrible it felt.

    I didn’t hate all JB though and as a woman I find her so very inspiring. Tiger Eyes was one of my favorite YA books. 🙂

    • Oh, my heart goes out to you for such an awful experience! Reading aloud in school was also terrifying for me, but the idea of reading a book that is so personally fraught (and terribly difficult to get through even as a kid not battling weight) is just wrenching. I remember kids who were slightly heavier getting made fun of, and it was awful. I’m so sorry that the name of that book brings up such horrible memories.

      Tiger Eyes was a wonderful book. Heartbreaking, but in a very different way.

      Thank you for sharing your personal perspective of the JB experience.

      • Dana, I’m so sorry for writing about a negative experience on your positive post. I really was just trying to say how powerful a book can still be so many years later. 🙂

      • Oh, please don’t apologize! Your experience is welcome here, positive or negative. Thank you as always for your comments and your lovely presence here 🙂

  7. Pingback: Starting Over | celiac kiddo

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