Judy Blume is a literary icon in the world of children and teen centered fiction. She has had at least one book in print every day since January 1, 1970. Of course, when someone is that famous a person cannot avoid attracting detractors as well. Since practically the start of her career, Judy Blume has been wrongly shamed for breaking taboos. Today, Blume’s books are one of the most frequent targets for censors in the entire country. Her books have been removed from schools and libraries; ranging from having an unpunished bully, to frank discussion of masturbation by both genders to acknowledging that teens have sex at all.
According to Blume, censorship became much more commonplace in children’s literature following the 1980 presidential election. The number of challenged books quadrupled within months. Blume also points out that as a society we can never know exactly how many school officials removed supposedly controversial books from school shelves by many authors because they did not want to deal with upset adults. What no one considers it is that the actions characters take in realistic fiction are the same actions flesh and blood readers take in real life.
Young people have a right to know that they are normal. This is something everyone questions, everyone wonders, and everyone doubts. For that matter, everyone has been doing that since there have been people. Some in society think that if no one tells young people about things they would not engage in behaviors some find problematic. In order to have healthier, safer young adults modern society needs to put this old wives tale out to pasture right beside the myth that fasting will help you recover from a fever faster.
Others argue that discussion around sexuality or puberty should occur only between child and guardian or at most a young person and their doctor. A doctor might report back questions to said guardian for all the young person knows. Due to the fact that they hold this opinion, some choose to wrongly shame Blume for breaking social taboos.
Holders of this belief ignore a basic fact. Some young people will never, under any circumstances, talk about these things with their guardian or any adult. Even if a young person is brave enough to ask one of the adults in their life for information, some adults are not equipped to have the talk, either information wise or emotionally. Fictional representations of real life situations that are presented in a medically accurate manner are vital, especially for people who live in a “we do not discuss those sort of things” kind of house. One can use the library in relative anonymity without damaging their own or someone else’s psyche.
Another major source of controversy in Blume’s career was the 1978 publication of Wifey, her first adult novel which some considered “a dirty book.” Many felt that she would never publish another children’s book after Wifey came out. Others were thrilled that she had finally written a book designed for the adult market. A few were outraged that she had not used a pseudonym or publicly admitted having the thoughts discussed in the book! Despite the outcry by some readers and publishing industry experts, Wifey has sold over four million copies and Blume has released many books for younger audiences, including some of her most popular titles, afterward.
Blume is still very active in the fight against censorship, but not just because she has been wrongly shamed for breaking taboos. She says as a writer, she will continue “to mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced — writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices — and all because of fear.”
Opinion By Martina Robinson
Introduction to Places I Never Meant to Be
Huffington Post: Most Controversial Judy Blume Books
Index: Judy Blume on being banned
Judy Blume Official Site: Wifey
Judy Blume Official Site: Comprehensive Book List
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