I was sitting on a friend's patio this summer, basking in the sunshine, when I noticed the Arts section of the local newspaper at my feet. When I picked it up I was happy to read a review of Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, a collection of essays written by young adult and adult fiction writers and editing by Jennifer O'Connell. The review confirmed what I had hoped when I first heard about the book - Judy Blume didn't just teach us about being a girl, she taught us about life.
I honestly don't think I don't know a single girl who didn't read a Blume book. She got us when we were young with Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and Superfudge. Then just as we were deciding we were too cool for Blume she hit us with Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself and Blubber and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Deenie. Then once again we thought were were too cool for Blume and then someone brought out a copy of Forever. And if your mother was anything like mine you might have ended up with one of her adult books like Smart Women because your mother assumed if it was Blume it was ok. Judy Blume reeled us in with annoying siblings and then moved us to bullying and the complexities of female friendship. She taught us what masturbation was and then moved us on to sex. And to the very odd idea that guys name their penis. Weird names. Like Ralph.
This compilation of essays honours Judy Blume for all of this. And one of the fantastic things about it is the women that are honouring her took up her torch and became writers themselves. Some like Meg Cabot and Megan McCafferty now write for the girls they used to be. And I certainly appreciate their work. Reading this book was like steeping back into various moments of my past - moments when I realized that I wasn't the only girl in the world to experience these things. And in true Judy Blume tradition, I'm not the only one who felt that way after reading these essays.
A Gaggle of Book Reviews called it a must read for girls who grew up in the US.
I am sure that each person will have essays that speak directly to them, and essays that are less personal. However, all of the essays are thoughtful and well-written. I was amazed at how moved I was while reading the essays - I flew back in time to my childhood, laughed at some of the memories and cried at others. I felt myself nodding over and over as I completely identified with what I was reading.
And the memories just kept coming.
Women of a certain age (like me) grew up reading Judy Blume's books as comfort against the raging storms of adolescence. The women who wrote the essays in this book are honest about the painful days of being a teenager, and also talk about how much Judy Blume helped them survive.
What Mary's Reading
Once for my church youth group we had to bring our most valuable possession. I brought “Just as Long as Were Together”. It was by far my favorite book growing up and I still name it as one of my favorite books. It wasn’t just because the main character was named Stephanie either. It’s over 200 pages and I remember trying to talk my mom into buying it for me. She was nervous that I wouldn’t actually read it since it was so long. But I DEVOURED IT! I mean who wouldn’t love a book that starts off “Stephanie is into hunks”?
Stephanie's Soap Box
I especially identified with Deenie when she found out that she had scoliosis, because my pediatrician said that I had a mild case of it at about the same time that I read the book. I decided that even if my spine got worse, that Deenie had survived it and boys even still liked her! It helped me to worry about it much less at the time.
But, it seems as if each one of Blume's books reached out to someone, and changed them forever. Somehow, each author rose above their Judy Blume experiences to become the women, and authors, they are today.
Lesa's Books Critiques
Thank you Judy Blume, for teaching us all something about how to grow up into strong women.
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