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Author and anti-censorship advocate Judy Blume is born

February 12, 1938

Judy Blume began to write in the mid-1960’s, when her children started school, but struggled at first to find an audience for her work.  She received up to six rejection letters a week for over two years before her first picture book for children, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo (1969), was accepted by publishers Reilly and Lee.

Then she gave herself permission to write from her own experience, saying that it was only then that she began to grow “as a writer and a woman.”  In Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Margaret Ann Simon, the child of a Jewish mother and a Christian father, asks God for direction in choosing a religion and prays that she will soon get her period. When the story ends, Margaret is stuffing her bra with cotton balls. She has explored various religions but has chosen none.  Blume’s compassion and empathy for her characters and her conversational, confessional tone set Blume’s writing apart from other young adult literature of the time, and the New York Times Book Review ranked it as one of the best children’s books of the year. Blume has never stopped writing.  More than 82 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-two languages.

Bullying, teen sex, divorce, sibling rivalry, social ostracism, first love—Blume has written with sensitivity and openness about previously taboo topics.  She has also worked to facilitate conversations between parents and their children.  In 1986, she published Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You (1986). The book is an attempt to help parents see life through their children’s eyes.

The target of an unprecedented campaign of censorship of her books in the 1980’s, Blume confronted the issue head-on.  She began to reach out to other writers, as well as teachers and librarians, who were under fire. Since then, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read. She is the editor of Places I Never Meant To Be, Original Stories by Censored Writers.

In 2004, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Her other honors include the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Library Association, and the Living Legends Award of the Library of Congress.

Speaking to other writers, Blume says, “Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being. If you're that kind of writer, never give up!”

Sources: “God? It’s Me, Judy,” Jewish Currents; Judy Blume; “Makers: Judy Blume,” Makers.com. 

Blume, Judy - still image [media]
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Judy Blume's ability to write from the perspective of her youthful readers has guaranteed her status as one of American children's most popular authors, while simultaneously making her the target of—and a defender against—censorship.

Photographer: Sigrid Estrada; Institution: Judy Blume

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Author and anti-censorship advocate Judy Blume is born." (Viewed on September 2, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/feb/12/1938/this-week-in-history-author-and-anti-censorship-advocate-judy-blume-is-born>.

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