Judy Blume: The Author & Feminist Who Revolutionised Teen Fiction

Judy Blume: The Author & Feminist Who Revolutionised Teen Fiction | CIO Women Magazine

Source- Oprah daily

For a teenage girl, growing up in a conservative society is tough, especially when the society is in the 60s and 70s. Your parents hold secrecy among important or ‘taboo’ topics and you grow up being confused about your body, especially as a girl. Judy Blume wasn’t any different, and that’s what made her write about taboo subjects in her children’s and young adult novels.

Judy Blume is an American author of children’s, young adult, and adult fiction. She is one of the first young adult authors to write on taboo subjects like masturbation, menstruation, teen sex, bullying, birth control, and death. In this article, we’ll learn about her amazing works and her contribution and impact on teenagers not just 70s but in today’s time as well.

Judy Blume’s Early Life and How She Started Writing

Born on 12, February 1938 in Elizabeth, New Jersey as Judith Sussman, she grew up in a family of Jews and saw many hardships as a child. Many plots of her books are based on the experiences and events from her childhood. She graduated from the all-girls Battin High School in 1956, then enrolled in Boston University. She graduated from New York University in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

She met John M. Blume when she was at New York University and got married to him in 1959. After her graduation, she became a homemaker and gave birth to two children. On her website, she mentioned how she always had a wild imagination since childhood and it never went away. 

“When I was growing up, I dreamed about becoming a cowgirl, a detective, a spy, a great actress, or a ballerina. Not a dentist, like my father, or a homemaker, like my mother, certainly not a writer, although I always loved to read. I didn’t know anything about writers. It never occurred to me they were regular people and that I could grow up to become one, even though I loved to make up stories inside my head.” 

When her children were in preschool, that’s when she began writing. Her first book was The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, which was published in 1969. In 1970, she released her second book, Iggie’s House. It was first written as a story in Trailblazer magazine, but then rewritten by Blume into a book.

Impact and Controversies Around Her Books

Judy Blume has written 25 novels in her lifetime, the latest being ‘In the Unlikely Event’ in 2015. Her most popular novels ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’, ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’, ‘Deenie’, and ‘Blubber’, have impacted a lot of teenage girls as it relates to the struggles they face about their bodies and explores topics on menstruation, puberty, sex, and bullying. Along with support she also received criticism for the same. Parents, librarians, book critics, and political groups have wanted her books to be banned. 

Judy Blume: The Author & Feminist Who Revolutionised Teen Fiction | CIO Women Magazine
Source- NPR

Her bestseller, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, was published in 1970 and is about eleven-year-old Margaret Simon as she navigates the challenges of adolescence, including puberty, friendships, and exploring her own identity and beliefs. The book has sparked controversy and some places have banned it due to its frank discussions of puberty and sexuality. Some conservative groups and individuals have objected to the book’s content, considering it inappropriate for young readers

However, it has impacted a lot of teenagers positively, as it provides a relatable and honest portrayal of the challenges and questions that young girls face as they enter adolescence. Margaret’s experiences with puberty, body image, and the desire to fit in resonate with many readers, helping them feel less alone in their own journeys. 

Her other books, Deenie and Blubber, explore the subjects of masturbation and bullying, which again didn’t sit well with the critics and protestors. 

Deenie tells the story of Deenie Fenner, a young girl who receives a diagnosis of scoliosis, a spinal disease. The book explores Deenie’s journey as she copes with her diagnosis, wears a brace, and navigates the challenges and emotions that come with her condition. It also talks about the topics of masturbation, body image, and self-acceptance. 

Blubber, on the other hand, is about fifth-grader Jill Brenner and her classmates as they participate in a cruel bullying campaign against Linda Fischer, a fellow classmate who is overweight. The book explores themes of peer pressure, the consequences of bullying, and the importance of empathy and standing up for what is right.

All her books have bold topics that society labels as taboo. They raised questions about her portrayal of characters and how these books promoted bullying or sexual acts. They wanted her books to be banned, but the positive impact was bigger. Her fans and supporters have argued that they answered the curious questions their young children have in mind and raised important topics that people hesitated to talk about. 

In an interview, Judy Blume said that having her books banned is a “very emotional” experience – particularly when she was just getting started. “I was a new-ish, young-ish writer, and it was hard to take,” she says. Still, she adds. “It never stopped me from writing.”

She has also said, “I felt only that I had to write the most honest books I could. It never occurred to me, at the time, that what I was writing was controversial. Much of it grew out of my own feelings and concerns when I was young.”

Many critics have criticized her books for having a ‘lack of moral tone’, yet they still manage to capture the hearts of teenagers and adults of every new generation. Over the last 50 years, her books have been translated into 32 languages and sold more than 90 million copies.

List of Awards Judy Blume Has Won 

Judy Blume has won over 90 awards in her career. Here are a few notable awards she has received.

Judy Blume: The Author & Feminist Who Revolutionised Teen Fiction | CIO Women Magazine
Source- The New Yorker
Award Year
Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement1994
ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults1996
Library of Congress Living Legends Award2000
Great Stone Face Award, New Hampshire Library Association1980
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award2023
Time Magazine All-Time 100 Novels List 2005

Interesting Facts About Judy Blume

  • Growing up, Judy Blume dreamed of being a cowgirl, actress, or detective. However, at the age of 25, as a stay-at-home wife and mother, she felt a void in her life. While washing dishes after dinner, she started rhyming picture books, which eventually led her to write longer fiction.
  • Struggling to find a title for her book, she decided to use the opening line of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. However, she later expressed regret on her website, stating that if she had known how frequently she would have to say the title, she might have simply called it Margaret.
  • Her book Forever… tells the story of two teenagers in love who engage in responsible sexual activity. She was inspired to write the book after her daughter expressed frustration with the portrayal of sexually active girls in 1970s young adult novels, where they were often punished. Her daughter asked if there could be a book where two good-hearted characters could have a positive experience without any tragic consequences.
Judy Blume: The Author & Feminist Who Revolutionised Teen Fiction | CIO Women Magazine
Source- AARP
  • The American Library Association recognized five of Blume’s novels for teens and tweens as some of the most frequently challenged books from 1990 to 1999. The books included Forever…, Blubber, Deenie, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Tiger Eyes. Except for Deenie, these books continued to appear on the ALA’s list from 2000 to 2009. Blume was also acknowledged by the ALA as one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century, making their lists from 2001 to 2006 and again in 2010.
  • In her song “Judy Blume,” Amanda Palmer mentions beloved characters like Margaret, Deenie, and Tony while reflecting on her own experiences of adolescence and the impact Blume’s books had on her. In an essay, Palmer admires Blume as the influential figure who shaped her early beliefs and praises her for providing a straightforward guide to truth for her generation.

The Legacy of Judy Blume

Her books were published in the 1970s when boldness was criticized and children were asked to be quiet around the elders. Yet she decided to express her feelings through her words and the rest is history. She wrote about sensitive topics through fiction that resonated with every teenager and, to this very day, everyone enjoys reading her books. She had made an impact on the world as an author by writing about subjects that people still fear talking about. 



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