Here’s to you, Judy Blume

It's not easy being a teenage girl. Between crushes, popularity contests, and training bras, junior high and high school can be a minefield of blush-inducing embarrassments. To make sense of the chaos—and hopefully to mitigate some of the disaster—it helps to have a good guide. For myself and thousands of other girls who came of age during the '80s and '90s, that guide was Judy Blume.

"They may never become classics," wrote author Joyce Maynard of Blume's honest coming-of-age books in a 1978 piece for the New York Times, "but they are among the first juvenile books to abandon happy endings, the notion of perfect parents, and images of children whose most serious problems are getting a horse or a paper route."

In honor of Blume’s 72nd birthday month and the 40th anniversary of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, I pulled out my copy of Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume (Pocket Books, 2007), edited by Jennifer O’Connell, MBA’96. In the book O’Connell and 24 other contributors reveal how Blume’s stories helped them survive the challenges of puberty—and occasionally those of adulthood. Check out some of their insights:

Beth Kendrick on Tiger Eyes, Forever, and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
"When I read Judy Blume in middle school, I skimmed right over the mothers' dialogue. At that age I viewed parents as an obstacle that kept the heroine from attaining her dreams. ... In the fine tradition of stubborn suburban girls, I spent my adolescence rebelling. I enrolled in a college two thousand miles away from home. I made dating choices based on weighty criteria such as 'coolness' and 'hotness.' ... I did everything I imagined my mother wouldn't have wanted me to do. And, of course, I turned out just like her."

Meg Cabot on Blubber
"I don't know if there's something that happens to some adults—especially once they've had children of their own—where they selectively forget what being a kid is really like. ... Only Judy Blume never lost sight of the fact that girls are not made of sugar and spice and everything nice."

Kayla Perrin on Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
"Ask any sixth-grade schoolgirl, and she'll tell you that size matters. Like majorly. ... When you're eleven going on twelve, like Margaret in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, it's the thing that matters most in your life. You want more than anything to fit in. Like Goldilocks trying out the Bears' hospitality, you don't want a chest that is too big or too small. You want one that is just right."

Joy Olivia Miller


February 23, 2010