Are you there, Judy Blume? It’s us, modern America.
The beloved YA author and Key West resident issued a call to action following Ron DeSantis’ Florida bill to ban discussing menstruation in schools. “Sorry, Margaret,” Blume tweeted in reference to her 1970 novel “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” which is being adapted to the big screen.
Blume’s books have been censored in the U.S. over the years since their respective releases, namely 1973’s “Deenie” which deals with masturbation, and 1975’s “Forever” about a high school senior who explores her sexuality.
“In the ’80s is when it all broke loose, after Reagan’s election,” Blume told Variety, citing the censorship of “Margaret” being refused to be included in libraries. “He believed that menstruation wasn’t a topic that girls should read about, never mind how many kids already had their periods.”
Blume continued, “It was bad in the ’80s, but it wasn’t coming from the government. Today, there are laws being enacted where a librarian can go to prison if she or he is found guilty of having pornography on their shelves. Try and define pornography today and you’ll find that it’s everything.”
As Blume noted, “pornography” isn’t a “I know it when I see it” declaration, but rather a personal and faux moral debate rooted in religion and right-wing politics.
“There’s a little picture book I love called ‘Julián Is a Mermaid,'” Blume said. “He’s a little guy, he likes to dress up in fancy clothes, and he has a wonderful auntie who has all kinds of beads and feathers. She’s supportive of him. If you go back to the ’80s, it was ‘Heather Has Two Mommies.’ That picture book was banned everywhere. Well, there’s a lot of kids who have two mommies or two daddies, and that book is important! Today, it’s considered pornographic by some legislatures.”
She continued, “This is the real danger. That a governor can appoint someone to the legislature who’s thinking this way because he’s thinking this way, and getting laws about this. We should have laws on the other side! That’s why organizations that work to protect the freedom to read widely and freely are so important.”
Blume added, “What are you protecting your children from? Protecting your children means educating them and arming them with knowledge, and reading and supporting what they want to read. No child is going to become transgender or gay or lesbian because they read a book. It’s not going to happen. They may say, ‘Oh, this is just like me. This is what I’m feeling and thinking about.’ Or, ‘I’m interested in this because I have friends who may be gay, bi, lesbian.’ They want to know! I just read a book that was wonderfully enlightening to me. It’s called ‘Gender Queer’ [a memoir by Maia Kobabe]. It’s probably the No. 1 banned book in America right now. And I thought, ‘This young person is telling me how they came to be what they are today.’ And I learned a lot, and became even more empathetic. That’s what books are all about.”
As for the modern rewriting of Roald Dahl’s classics, the “Judy Blume Forever” documentary subject looked to her own literary legacy.
“I think if Roald Dahl was around, you would be hearing what he thinks about that. Whatever he is, whatever he’s accused of being, there’s a lot of truth there. But the books are the books. Kids still love the books, and they love them the way he wrote them. So I don’t believe in that,” Blume said.
Updating Blume’s own books? “Not as long as I’m around,” she concluded.