Saturday, May 22, 2010

Judy Blume, Margaret, and Me

Every girl who grew up reading Judy Blume needs to read Everything I Thing I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O'Connell. It features essays from female writers such as Meg Cabot talking about what they learned from Judy Blume. I actually didn't recognize most of the authors, but loved most of the essays and will be going through the author list to fine new books to read!

The essays themselves reminded me about my own childhood growing up reading Judy Blume. My mom got me hooked on her books for younger kids first, starting with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. She probably thought I would identify with Peter, having a demon child of a little brother myself. He was only two when he learned how to climb on top of the kitchen cabinets. She likes to say now that until he started school he probably thought his name was "Dammit Dustin." I completely identified with Peter. Except Peter was actually better behaved than me. I usually responded to my brother's antics with violence. And of course then I got in trouble too. Fortunately both of my parents were older siblings as well and knew that he had probably done something to deserve it. But at the same time, I thought that surely they could control him a bit better. But after reading the rest of the Fudge books, I became quite thankful that my brother wasn't nearly as bad as Fudge and my parents weren't as complacent.

And then I moved on to the pinnacle of pre-teen required reading for girls: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. It's just one of those books that you never forget. I honestly didn't even identify with many of Margaret's desires and the book still meant a lot to me. Looking back, I think it taught me how to talk to other girls. It gave me the info I needed to fake it a bit. It also taught me what to do once my body started changing. I knew what to expect. I was a bit odd in that while I wanted to grow up, and I had crushes on boys starting from kindergarten and never stopping, there were other girly things I just didn't quite get. Like why boobs were so important. They seemed kind of uncomfortable to me, like they would get in the way. That opinion changed eventually, although they never did really concern me. One day I got them, and that was fine, and I still don't understand women who have breast implants. The thing that really got me with this book though, of course, is the other big womanly change. If any guys happen to be reading, look away now. :) This book taught me that most girls really, really want to get their periods. Me? It just completely grossed me out. Why on earth would you want that? And since we don't marry and start families at 13 anymore, why doesn't God help our bodies evolve so we don't start until we're 20? That would solve a lot of problems, although I guess it would take away the biggest consequence for teens having sex so maybe He knows what He's doing. Unlike Margaret, I pleaded with God to delay the whole thing. No such luck. Although I started a year later than Margaret, I was still one of the first of my friends. Boo. And then later on I started getting two a month. Lucky me. But I remember being 11, when I first read this book, and being terrified of the whole thing and really wishing their was a way to stop it, especially because I didn't want to have kids anyway. It seems a bit pointless for me to have to deal with this, but that's just life. But while Margaret didn't make me want to become a woman in that way, she did teach me that most of my friends did, and helped me to understand them better, and not to hold that against them. And she prepared me for the big event happening, although when it came I was confused about the lack of the belt Margaret used. I'm still not sure how that worked exactly. It seems like a lot changed in that area between 1970 and 1993. After reading the collection of essays, I re-read my very battered copy of Margaret and was surprised at how much of it focuses on religion this time around. Despite the title, I didn't really remember all of that part, with Margaret being raised to not be anything, her exploring Christianity and Judaism. It's interesting how many layers are in Blume's books.

After Margaret, I moved on to Deenie (shocking!), Iggie's House, Tiger Eyes, and finally, Forever.... Was this really Judy Blume? I had no idea this was The Sex Book before I picked it up at the library. I was shocked from the very first sentence, and continued that shock until the end. I probably missed a lot since I was 11 at the time and even though I had had the sex talk in general terms, there was a lot I didn't understand. Which is probably good since I was 11! I haven't read the book since then, so I stopped at Half-Price Books to grab a copy. I picked up a few other similar young adult books, since I'm trying to write a book for young adults that would fall into that same sort of grouping. Hopefully the books I picked up will inspire me to finish it, and help me with the dialogue becuase that's the hardest part for me.

I realized I haven't actually talked about the actual book I'm reviewing! I honestly enjoyed every essay. There were maybe three that I would say are just okay, probably because I didn't identify with them as much, but all of the others showed me a reflection of myself. It was wonderful to picture all of these different women growing with Judy, that we all shared part of the coming of age experience. So, for every girl who grew up with Judy, I highly recommend this book. And, make sure to share your favorite Judy Blume book in the comments!


  1. Sounds like it was fun trip through memory lane -- I don't recall reading any YA Judy Blume but I loved the Fudge books and I related to some extent to the Margaret book too. I read that when I was much too old, like 13 or 14, so I felt I was reading about younger kids when I read it.

  2. Yeah, I think you have to read Margaret more around 11 or so to really enjoy it. I also remember loving Freckle Juice. It is more like the Fudge books.