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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Did everyone read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume as an 11 year old?  I know I read it in 4th or 5th grade, but my memory of it is completely different from the actual book.  After reading a discussion of the topic of God in the book online, I thought maybe I ought to reread it, since despite the obvious title, the book of my memory had nothing to do with God. In my memory, the entire book was about waiting to grow boobs. How many of us actually tried the "I Must, I must, I must increase my bust" exercise? Raise your hand. Yeah, me too.

In reality, Are You There God? has been banned or censored many times for both religious reasons and for addressing matters like menstruation and puberty. It falls at number 60 on this list of banned books. I know I'm a little bit late to the Banned Books party, but I wanted to go ahead and post this anyway. There didn't seem to be anything in the book that would make me hesitate to hand it off to my pre-teen daughter and I'm not sure at all why someone would object to it.

My experience in 6th grade was fairly similar to Margaret's. I had one friend who would compare notes with me about getting our periods, and the rest of us whispered about everyone else, trying to analyze their bathroom visits to determine if they had gotten their period. When Margaret's friend Nancy lies about having gotten hers to feel more mature, I could easily imagine that having happened among my 6th grade cohorts.  I remember getting my first bra, and being embarrassed that boys could maybe see the straps (or the very hint of them) through my shirt. I remember taking it off after gym and stuffing it into my backpack and then worrying the rest of the day that it might fall out and be seen.

Rereading Are You There God? as an adult was a good experience for me. In general  I tend to sneer at people who insist that the books that they read as a teen are so much better than the books being published now. I loved Judy Blume then but assumed that the book would feel dated and wouldn't work today. I was wrong, of course.  I have to change my (mental) stance to include both the classics and the contemporary now.

Did you read this one as a kid? Did you remember Margaret's struggle to find her place with religion? Did you relate to her desire to want her breasts to grow so she'd be "normal"? Would you feel comfortable letting your 11 year old read it? How do you feel about the decision to replace the description of sanitary napkins with belts to those with adhesive strips? Should books be changed to fit modern times? Are there any topics that you feel ok banning from books?

For more information on Banned books, visit the ALA at this link. You can read more about Banned Books Week here, or here on Facebook.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
by Judy Blume (website -warning, has sound!)
Yearling Books (Random Hous)
149 pages

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  1. I didn't read this until I was an adult and I loved it! I could totally relate to Margaret. When I was in junior high, I had this great PE teacher and we used to recite "I want a figure like Bridgette Bardot, so grow, little boobies, grow!" while we did our exercises.

  2. I read it when I was growing up. It taught me all sorts of things. I heard it was recently re-written because so much of it was dated.

  3. I haven't read this one. But somehow I'm familar with the increasing the bust chant. Hmmm. It's one I'd like to read, but I always forget about it. I do think that there were great things published in the past, just like there was not so great things published in the past (Sweet Valley High? Shudder).

  4. I read this many years ago (as an adult). I remember loving it, but don't remember anything about it. Will try to re-read it.

  5. I never read it as a child, only as an adult. I think I'd have loved it as a child growing through some of these things..

  6. I read this book when I was younger and I loved it. I really should reread it again just because I know I would enjoy the experience. And I wouldn't hesitate to let my daughter read it...I think it would open up interesting discussions that we could talk about together. Great review!

  7. Don't tell anyone, but I'm pretty sure I never read a single Judy Blume book when I was growing up. Can't imagine why not--I read voraciously. I think I always thought of her books as beneath me--how funny is that?!

  8. I loved this book as a fifth grader and have read all of Blume's books! I really should go back and reread it before my 8-year-old wants to-just so I can relive it. Great post!

  9. I read it as a tween myself, but barely remember it. I definitely did not do those "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" exercises because I was an early bloomer and mortified that I needed a bra in the fourth grade.

    I totally missed the boat on getting my girls to read this at the appropriate time in their lives, too because both of them already wear bras and get their periods! Too late for helping with the "what to expect" part! Oops!

    ... and now I feel really old... : /

  10. I start getting boobs and my period really early, the summer before 5th grade. I read the book in fifth grade and really liked it. I wonder if it would have made an even bigger impact on me if I would have read it before that summer?

    My guess is that it was banned by some "out there" christian groups because Margaret questions if God really exists.


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