Judy Blume: Widely Banned, Widely Beloved

Despite censorship, Judy Blume has advised generations of youth on taboo topics. Blume’s influence continues to grow, particularly via new media adaptations.

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Despite publishing her slew of hit novels over fifty years ago, Judy Blume’s work continues to influence contemporary audiences. With over 82 million copies sold, Blume is responsible for advising generations of youth on taboo and tricky topics. My mother read Judy Blume, I read Judy Blume, and my children quite possibly will read Judy Blume. She’s just that good.

What Makes Blume’s Books so Influential to Young Readers?

Including common themes such as divorce, religion, sex, puberty, bullying, death, and depression, Blume’s works tackle controversial subjects head-on. By addressing these subjects through the lives of middle and high schoolers, Blume helps children and young adults understand intimidating material in a way that’s engaging, empathetic, and accessible. Importantly, Blume’s characters are relatable. While her work is not autobiographical, Blume depicts universal events and circumstances that all children and teens experience but may not know how to talk openly about. Her novels have become a way for many to find comfort with and understand their bodies and relationships.

Blume’s Long History with Censorship

Though widely admired, Blume’s 85-year reign also attracted negative attention. Her unapologetic depiction of sensitive topics such as menstruation, birth control, masturbation, and sex has led to censorship and hate. Multiple books by Blume have been banned from various libraries and classrooms, including Deenie, which follows a seventh-grade girl coping with scoliosis and features sexual and “immoral” content, and Forever, a graphic novel about two high schoolers who fall in love.

Blume's novel, "Deenie," picture here with a girl lying in a field of daisies, has been banned by various schools and libraries for featuring sexual content between high school students.

In spite of her advanced age, Blume continues to be a powerful voice against censorship. Committed to children’s intellectual freedom, Blume’s stance has remained firm for 85 years—censorship is nothing but fear and a desire for control disguised as moral outrage.

“They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen… Books that make kids laugh often come under suspicion; so do books that encourage kids to think, or question authority; books that don’t hit the reader over the head with moral lessons are considered dangerous.”

Judy Blume

In 1999, Blume edited and published an anthology of short stories, Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, which includes the account of twelve prominent authors’ personal experiences with censorship. She continues to contribute to the anticensorship movement as an active member of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

The cover of "Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers" includes a list of twelve prominent authors who spoken out about their experiences with censorship.

“If no one speaks out for [young readers], if they don’t speak out for themselves, all they’ll get for required reading will be the most bland books available,” Blume said. “As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

Upcoming Adaptations Prove Blume is Here to Stay

Despite pushback, Judy Blume is here to stay. In fact, she’s only gaining momentum. Fans will soon have a look into Blume’s own coming-of-age story: the documentary Judy Blume Forever is poised to release on Amazon Prime on April 21. Tracing the legendary storyteller’s journey from awkward adolescent to activist writer fighting back against censorship, directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok celebrate Blume’s profound impact on young readers.

Author Judy Blume speaks about her book, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, in 2015.

Not to be outshone, an adaptation of Blume’s 1970 novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret will hit the big screen on April 28. In an interview with Today, Blume praised director Kelly Fremon Craig’s adaptation as better than the original. Craig’s debut feature film, The Edge of Seventeen, found critical acclaim upon its release in 2016, setting up Blume’s novel to find similar success.

Finally, Blume’s 1975 novel Forever is set to be reimagined by producer Mara Brock Akil in a featured series on Netflix. Though the release date is yet to be announced, Akil promises to capture the magical awkwardness of first love and sexual exploration through the epic story of two Black teenagers.

The longevity of Blume’s work supports its genius. She has altered the lives of millions of young girls and will continue to for years to come.

For other articles on anti-censorship activism, click here.