As I was reviewing the American Library Association’s lists of frequently challenged books while researching Banned Books Week, I was stunned to see one of my childhood favorites Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume made the list. Even more stunning, five of her books made the list.
When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, Are You There, God? was a book I frequently borrowed from the library. While it didn’t explain the great mysteries of menstruation (I still don’t have all of them solved, but this piece over at BuzzFeed recently helped me articulate the experience to my boyfriend), it did help me feel like my friends and I were not the only ones obsessing over boys, bras and who would be the first to get their period.
I can’t imagine what could have replaced Are You There, God? if it had been banned from my public library. I certainly couldn’t have asked my mother, who had already proved she was not up to “the talk”–her attempt left me being one of those girls who thought you could get pregnant by simply kissing a boy. (Sorry, Mom. You were good at executing many aspects of parenting, but explaining the birds and the bees was not one of them.)
I’m not alone in feeling reassured by Ms. Blume’s books, and feeling like she was an adult kids could turn to when they had questions about what was “normal.” In fact, she published a book of the letters she received, along with her responses, in Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You as a resource for parents. The book is no longer in print, but Maria Popova at Brain Pickings featured excerpts here and here. Reading them left me grateful Ms. Blume was brave enough to be honest about sexuality in her books and hopeful that those of us who grew up reading her books are brave enough to talk honestly with our kids.