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Judy Blume: The Young Adult Author That Got You Through Puberty

1970s | May 16, 2019

Novelist Judy Blume poses for a portrait on September 29, 2006 in New York City, New York. Source: (Photo by Karjean Levine, Getty Images)

If you were an adolescent or teen in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, you probably owe thanks to American author, Judy Blume, for helping you navigate the treacherous waters of puberty. Many of the novels she wrote dealt with topics that were difficult for teens to talk about. That won her both praise and objections. In fact, some of her books, that were written for teens and young adults, were banned. Let’s look at the life and career of Judy Blume, whose books helped many of her readers get through their adolescent years. 

A young Judy Blume. Source: (nytimes.com)

Judy Blume, the early years

Born on February 12, 1938, Judy Sussman grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After she graduated from high school, she enrolled in New York University to major in education. She earned her degree in 1960, a few months after she married John Blume. Together, they had two children. 

Judy Blume in 1970. Source: (chatelaine.com)

A Budding Writer

As a child, Blume enjoyed making up stories in her head but didn’t consider herself a writer. In the late 1960s, however, Judy Blume signed up for a continuing education class on writing for children and teens. She loved the course and even turned one of her classroom assignments into her first published book in 1969 The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. Shortly afterward, her short story Iggie’s House was printed in Trailblazer magazine. Blume later expanded this story into a book that was published in 1970. 

Judy Blume's first brush with controversy was with her novel "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" Source: (pajiba.com)

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

It was Judy Blume’s 1970 novel that propelled her into the literary spotlight. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret touched on several topics that had previously been taboo for teens and pre-teens, including religion, puberty, and menstruation. Critics of the book were shocked that Blume wrote with candor and openness about her topics and asked for it to be banned from school libraries. Many others, however, welcomed Blume’s willingness to tackle the issues that face young teens. 

Judy Blume's Forever. Source: (killyourdarlings.com.au)

Another Judy Blume Book was banned

Judy Blume dared write about young love and birth control in her 1975 book, Forever. The story follows the teenage love story of Michael and Katherine, whose romance is escalating. Although she is young and unmarried, Katherine seeks birth control. Supporters of the novel praise Blume for depicting a character who is being responsible in her relationship, but others demanded the book be banned from library shelves because of it was believed that the book promoted unmarried romantic relationships. 

Source: (nypost.com)

A Litany of Young Adult Novels

As Judy Blume became the queen of the young adult novels, she continued to publish book after book. Then Again, Maybe I Won’t was published in 1971, followed the next year by It’s Not the End of the World. Deenie was released in 1973. Her 1981 book, Tiger Eyes, was made into a film in 2012. She also wrote in 1987 Just As Long As We’re Together and in 1993 Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson. Her young adult books were all praised for their first-person narratives that helped to make them relatable to her readers. 

Source: (barnesandnoble.com)

Books For Middle Schoolers

In addition to writing for young adults, Judy Blume penned many of the middle school books that became classroom staples. They include Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, which she published in 1972 and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, published later that same year. She gained a loyal following of readers with her 1980 book, Superfudge, which she followed up with the 1990 Fudge-a-Mania and the 2002 Double Fudge. Middle schoolers connected to her work because the books dealt with topics relevant to their own lives, such as sibling rivalry, divorce, friendships, and bullying. 

Source: (studybreak.com)

Books for Adult Fans

For her fans that outgrew her young adult books, Judy Blume also wrote four adult novels. Wifey was released in 1978; Smart Women came out in 1983; Summer Sisters was published in 1998, and In the Unlikely Event was released in 2015. 

Source: (npr.org)

Outspoken Against Banned Books

Because Judy Blume found her books the target of book banning campaigns, she became an outspoken advocate for intellectual freedom and a critic of book banning. She was a board member on the National Coalition Against Censorship. Today, at age 81, Judy Blume enjoys hearing from her young fans and fans who grew up reading her novels. 

Tags: Adolescence | author | famous people | Judy Blume

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.