Books

Judy Blume on Censorship, Death Threats, Divorce, and Not Retiring Like Philip Roth

“This is America: we don’t have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write… we don’t ban books. But then they did.” Read More

By / July 14, 2014

Judy Blume is click-bait catnip to me. I love her books, sure, but more than that I love her wisdom, her seventy-something joie de vivre, her I’m-too-old-to-give-a-fuck-what-anyone-thinks attitude. In this excellent profile by Alison Flood in The Guardian, Blume talks at length about all sorts of controversial things, like why it’s a bad idea to get married young, what it’s like to tour with a bodyguard (she’s received death threats for speaking out in support of Planned Parenthood and, you know, women’s bodily autonomy), and what it’s like to be censored (according to the American Library Association, she’s one of the most challenged authors of the 21st century):

DeenieForever…, every year, somewhere, they’re challenged. When I started, in the 70s, it was a good time for children’s book writers. Children’s reading was much freer than in the 80s, when censorship started; when we elected Ronald Reagan and the conservatives decided that they would decide not just what their children would read but what all children would read, it went crazy. My feeling in the beginning was wait, this is America: we don’t have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write, freedom of the press, we don’t do this, we don’t ban books. But then they did.

Other notable facts: Blume wrote Forever… for her daughter Randy, who wanted to read a novel where a girl enjoyed sex and didn’t die or get pregnant (has there ever been a more poignant writer request?!); Amanda Palmer has written a song about her; and the eponymous protagonist of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, is based on Blume’s adolescent experiences. The best part of the piece, though, is the kicker—a sly dig at Philip Roth’s very public announcement(s) that he’s going into retirement:

Teasingly, Blume says right at the end of the interview that she’s now planning, sort of, a memoir up until the age of 12; she’s not, she ends by chuckling, “going to do a Philip Roth” and announce her retirement.

“George just read me a really funny one [a blog in the New Yorker], it was, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Philip Roth has announced he has eaten his last sandwich.'” She laughs. George is waiting. She heads off to enjoy London.

Judy Blume, biz hundert un tvansik! (And keep your eyes peeled for her new novel for adults, due to hit the shelves next summer.)

Image: Judy Blume with Sofia Coppola and Sarah Flack on November 13, 2003 in New York City. (Scott Gries/Getty Images)