When I hear the word “influencer,” I conjure up an image of a young, elegant Byron baes talking earnestly to the camera. I don’t think about middle-aged women, because isn’t that the beginning of the Great Disappearance? The older a woman gets, the harder it is to find her in the media.
So I’m delighted to see my idol, 85-year-old children’s author Judy Bloom, timeList of the 100 Most Influential People of 2023. A documentary will be released this month, Forever Judy BloomDirected by Davina Pardo and Leah Walchock, it stars some of Bloom’s famous fans, including actresses Molly Ringwald and Lena Dunham.Later this year, a film adaptation of her classic novel is god thereit’s me margaretA movie starring Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates will appear. So much Judy! Cue the raised hand emoji: It’s time.
Judy Bloom has long been spoken highly of by children’s and young adult authors. Think of the Blume effect: the surge in YA fiction springing up in oughts (the second golden age) was a direct result of a generation of women dealing with girlhood.
Judy Blume was the first author I searched for a name in the library, and my first “brand” author. I read her obsessively in the early ’80s, and the vague details stayed with me: Nancy’s nose “was turned up so much I could look straight into her nostrils” (Is there a god…); Karen’s new friend’s pads (it’s not the end of the world); Tony’s sexy neighbor Lisa throws her cigarette out the car window (then again maybe i won’t); Deeney’s review of the Natalie Wood movie splendor in the grass (Dini). I hear the voices of Bloom’s young characters who read the world around them: candid, funny, sad, irascible, weird (American) and true.
Bloom grew up in a Jewish family in Elizabeth, New Jersey. She was a scared child and a people-pleaser. She adores her father and finds her mother emotionally unavailable. Bloom was seven when World War II ended; she had seen newsreels and learned about the atrocities committed. She also saw how the world kept turning. Forever Judy Bloom Detailing her post-war adulthood: “In the ’50s, a lot of it was about pretending.” Blume played the part of the perfect daughter, then the perfect wife, but, she quipped, “I was a good girl , but there’s a bad girl lurking inside.”
Bloom married early and had two children. Her husband agreed to write as long as it did not interfere with family life. From the beginning, she was drawn to writing from a child’s point of view. “I feel like adults keep secrets from kids. I hate those secrets. I have to make up what I think those secrets are.” She had some false starts and many rejections before finding success is god thereit’s me margaret In 1970, when the children were still in school, she wrote the first draft in six weeks.
In the novel, 11-year-old Margaret moves from New York to suburban New Jersey. God is her confidante. She talks to him throughout the novel, talking bluntly about bodies, bras, boys, and bad friends. Beyond day-to-day affairs, Margaret studies religion, fueled by her own mixed beliefs, and asks big existential questions: Who am I? why am i here How is this going?
Eleven is a stressful age: childhood is coming to an end and nothing is set in stone. Social awareness, emotional intelligence, and a sense of justice are heightened on the 11th. The sad thing is that life isn’t fair, the bully often wins, and adults aren’t that interested in listening to you.
When I was 11, I desperately wanted someone to pour my soul out to. I remember having deep conversations with the family dog. Even though my siblings and I “get along”, each of us is our own insurmountable world. Around the time we first met Margaret, my sisters and I were journaling. Maybe, subconsciously, we’re writing for each other, writing about what we want to say but don’t say, what we want to be but don’t do. In the 80’s the message was that girls were stupid, weak and boring. Judy Blume’s (and ME Kerr and Paula Danziger’s) book shows the inner lives of girls, and it feels like the only thing telling me I’m okay.
The Judy Blume Papers in the Yale University Libraries archives contain decades of correspondence between Blume and her readers.one of the joys of Forever Judy Bloom Their words, intimate terms, their confessions and pleas are being heard and seen. A large number of readers feel known and seen. The documentary features comments from several longtime correspondents who feel their relationship with Blume, and her consideration of them, is nothing less than life-changing.
I read letter to judy Shortly after its publication in 1986, I was surprised but not surprised by how personal the letters were. It strikes me now that readers writing to Bloom are no different than Margaret writing to God. Writing can be therapeutic. When we put experience into words, we give it distance, we give it away. Being the recipient of all these words can sometimes be a heavy burden. In the documentary, Blume says it got her into therapy, but she’s happy with it, and she’s grateful for it. (In her interviews, she’s every bit as warm, funny, and gracious as you’d expect.)
i have imagined is god there So full that I dare not surrender to someone else’s vision. In fact, it was Kelly Fremon Craig (edge of seventeen) helps at the helm of the film. The movie is set in the 70’s and I can imagine the theater filled with nostalgic Gen Xers. But I wonder if today’s teens are too busy Snapchating and stealing bras from Lululemon to sit down and watch depictions of adolescence in the 1970s.
Still, there are other contemporary resonances. I thought about the children’s book ban that’s going on in the US. Bloom’s book was repeatedly banned “because” as Molly Ringwald wrote, “there were always those who objected to the idea of an empowered young woman having autonomy over her body and mind” .
Although Judy Blume doesn’t write books anymore – she stopped after 2015 in the unlikely event – she’s still influencing readers. She owns a bookstore in Florida, where she gleefully sells banned titles and signs books of her own for fans young and old. On Twitter, where she has more than 500,000 followers, her bio reads “Are you there, Twitter? It’s me, Judy.” Here we are, I answer (in my head, in this post) . We are all still here.
Forever Judy Bloom Streams on Amazon Prime Video starting April 21.