Judy Blume is a name that’s familiar to many, especially those who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Her books tackled issues that were often considered taboo at the time, and they offered a fresh perspective on the lives of young girls. One of the most notable contributions that Blume made was changing the way that girls learned about their bodies.
Before Blume came along, there were very few resources available to young girls who were curious about their changing bodies. Sex education was often limited to a dry, clinical discussion in health class, and parents were often too uncomfortable to talk to their kids about sex and puberty. This left many girls feeling confused and ashamed about their bodies, and they were forced to rely on whispers and rumors from their peers for information.
Blume changed all of that with her book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The book follows the story of a young girl named Margaret as she navigates the ups and downs of puberty, from getting her period to dealing with crushes on boys. What made Are You There God? so groundbreaking was its frank and honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a young girl going through these changes.
Blume didn’t shy away from any of the tough topics, and she wrote about them in a way that was both relatable and informative. She didn’t use euphemisms or talk down to her readers, but instead addressed them directly and respectfully. For many young girls, reading Are You There God? was like having a friend who understood what they were going through.
Blume’s impact on girls’ understanding of their bodies didn’t stop with Are You There God? She went on to write several other books that dealt with similar themes, including Deenie, which follows a girl with scoliosis, and Forever, which deals with a young couple’s sexual relationship. Each of these books offered a unique perspective on growing up, and they helped to fill a gap in the education that many young girls were receiving.
Her books were banned and continue to be banned, but they are still considered the preeminent books that talked about growing up in a way that wasn’t talking down or dry on the subject. One of the biggest threads in Are You There God? is that the young protagonist wants a bra. We learn about menstruation for the first time in a book, and Blume says that she wrote Forever because her daughter asked her for a book where the characters have sex but don’t die in the end. Blume was and is the ultimate feminist creating a space for young people to better understand what was going on with them, and also learn about it from a less clinical perspective.
Today, we take for granted that there are books and resources available to help young girls learn about their bodies and sexuality. But it wasn’t always this way, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Judy Blume for helping to change the conversation. Her books continue to resonate with young readers today, and they serve as a reminder that it’s never too late to start talking honestly and openly about these important topics.