All Hail Judy Blume

Picture a young girl, and when I say young, I mean around the age of nine or ten. Picture her when menstruation first made its debut. If you’re assuming this young girl is me, well you’ve guessed it right. Now, I had heard about getting something called a “period” but I never really expected to get it when I did. I didn’t really understand what it meant, despite both of my parents’ awkward explanation.

Luckily, I was a bookworm (and still am—old hobbies die hard). My mom had the great idea to buy me some Judy Blume novels and let’s just say, Mrs. Blume helped a girl out in ways other people couldn’t. For that, I owe her.

If you never got the chance to read one of her novels when you were younger and going through the motions of transitioning from innocent girl to soon-to-be woman, then let me explain the impact of her work. Blume tackled issues like racism, menstruation, divorce, bullying, masturbation, sexuality and family problems, among others.

The first one I read was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in which young Margaret is introduced to pre-teen puberty. In the midst of struggling to gain a sense of what it means to buy her first bra, crush on a cute boy and have her first period, Margaret is also exploring religion. Then, there was Blubber, where an awkward and overweight girl gets bullied by her classmates. The interesting aspect of this novel was that the main character Linda soon after engaged in bullying, once her classmates focused their negative energy on someone else. In this way, Blubber investigated the complexity of friendship and popularity, while simultaneously speaking to the impact of being considered different, which in this case, led to constant bullying. In Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson, Rachel experiences issues with her family, forcing her to alienate herself and feel negatively about her parents and siblings. She later learns the importance of family, and the unimportance of continuing trivial arguments with family members. There’s one last novel I just need to mention so stay with me here: Forever… Katherine and Michael find themselves attracted to each other, and have mistaken having sex as something that seals their relationship as a forever thing. Katherine later finds herself attracted to another boy, leaving Michael feeling betrayed and broken-hearted.

Though many find Judy Blume novels to be controversial in their subject matter, especially considering they are aimed at children and young adults, I tend to strongly disagree. All of the topics she covers are things pre-teens need to hear because no one else is willing to tell them, which is part of the reason why so many are misinformed when it comes to sexuality.

Speaking from experience, every single novel I read from Blume served a purpose, a purpose I came to realize later in my life. I related to the characters and I understood their trials and tribulations because I was experiencing it all alongside them. For that reason, I felt normal during a period of my life where the meaning of normal seemed to be in flux.