Where would we be without Judy Blume? The writer has written dozens of works that encourage younger generations to be curious about their bodies, to question, to explore, and to be brave. Is God There? It’s Me, Margaret – a classic if ever – portrays the anxieties of puberty and rules a very important rhyme: “We must, we must, we must increase breasts!” Margaret and her friends would chant, wishing their breasts would get bigger and bigger. Spermaceti deal gracefully with elementary school bullying and complicit bystanders. tiger eyes observed a young woman navigating unpredictable griefs.
Growing up, I borrowed Judy Blume’s books from the library and hoarded them as contraband. The novels were a miracle to my sheltered middle school self: How can an adult speak frankly and accurately about my bodily experiences? I know I’m not the first Blume fan to feel this way and — especially when people watch Davino Pardo and Leah Wolchok’s doc Judy Blume forever – I certainly won’t be the last.
Judy Blume forever
A loving — and timely — portrait of a beloved author.
The documentary premiered at Sundance and will stream on Prime Video on April 21, as part of the Blume revival campaign. Last November, Netflix purchased a series of versions of Forever by Mara Brock Akil. And this spring, Lionsgate will release an adaptation of Is God There? It’s Me, Margaret starring Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie. Judy Blume forever is a loving portrait of the writer and a survey of her influence. It is also the prelude to this revival, a brief but satisfying guide to the author and her reach.
The film opens with a montage of collected news reels and quoted interviews, all of which establish and underline her enduring popularity. An essential biographical sketch follows. Blume (born Judy Sussman) grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, her childhood marked by a fear of the Second World War. As a child, she was always worried and had a feeling of fear that adults, especially her mother, were keeping secrets from the children. Listening to Blume recount her younger years means that when she starts writing later in life, she mostly identifies with that age. Children are forthright and honest. Rarely do they pretend to be adults.
Blume herself pretended for a moment. She studied at New York University, where she met her first husband John Blume. They got married five weeks after her father’s death, which left the writer experiencing many mixed emotions that she couldn’t handle for years. The newlyweds move into a house in a suburban dead end with golfing husbands and non-working wives. For a while, Blume says in these candid interviews, she tried to be the perfect housewife. But she became bored. The decision to write came from her desire to get more done with her time and a desperate need to tell stories.
It was gratifying to hear Blume, an astute woman with a sense of humour, talk about her writing career. Her winding trajectory towards the medium and her challenging journey to harness her skills is a refreshing contrast to the contemporary publishing system, which rewards young people, has aptitude and confession. In these reflective interviews, Blume talks openly about wanting to prove her detractors wrong. She faced countless rejections before publication The one in the middle is the Blue Kangaroo (1969), Iggie’s House (1970) and her great success Is God There? It’s Me Margaret (1970). It was the last, a book about an 11-year-old girl navigating her religious identity and the tumultuous terrain of puberty that made Blume a household name.
Pardo and Wolchok strikingly intertwine the censorship struggle early in Blume’s career with the recently emerging book ban movement. Some of Blume’s own novels such as Is God there? It’s Me, Margaret, Spermaceti and Then again, maybe I won’t was banned for her entire career. The author, who now owns a bookstore in Key West, remains a staunch advocate on this issue and beyond.
Transparent sprinkles Judy Blume forever is a series of contemporary writers, celebrities and aficionados talking about the author’s influence on their artistic and personal development. Novelists Mary HK Choi, Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds, as well as Lena Dunham and Samantha Bee, are among the familiar faces. Their testimonials provide further evidence of Blume’s powerful impact on children’s and youth publishing, reminding viewers how few of these books still consider readers Theirs is people instead of ideological vessels.
The interviews I cherish most, however, are those with (now older) Blume fans, some of whom have written hundreds of letters to the author. These correspondence, now kept in the Yale University Archives, convey Blume’s impact on a personal level. For years, her books have helped young people negotiate their identities and feel less alone. Fans of her novels will write lengthy confession letters begging her to listen or give her advice. To hear Blume reread some of these notes, to see the emotions flash across the faces of the (now grown-ups) children who wrote to her, is to witness a sort of magic.