Twenty-year-old Judith Sussman, daughter of a New Jersey dentist, arrives at NYU to study education. She meets John Blume, a law student. They marry the next year.
Graduates from NYU, already pregnant, and moves to Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Quickly tires of that life: “It was a nice marriage, but I was dying.” Hangs her diploma over the washing machine.
Signs up for a writing class with children’s author and editor Jane Lee Wyndham.
First book published: The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo. “When I started to write,” she says later, “my husband thought it was very cute … but what I was doing was not a joke.”
Two more books for middle-school kids: Iggie’s House, about race politics, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, all bras and first periods and pubertal travails, including the exercise chant “We must—we must—we must increase our bust!” The Times raves, and she faces her first boycott—from her own kids’ principal. But, she says, “It was uppermost in my mind when I was a kid: the need to know, and not knowing how to find out.”
Publishes Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, a male coming-of-age story full of awkward erections and wet dreams.
Recurring character Fudge makes his debut in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It’s Not the End of the World (divorce seen through the eyes of a sixth-grader) is dedicated to her husband, John.
Publishes Deenie and Blubber, two of her most banned and contested books. “One girl wrote to me about Deenie: ‘If there is something bad in this book, could you explain it to me—because I don’t know what it is!’”
Divorces John, saying, “I wanted to go to Woodstock. I wanted to be active in the women’s movement and the sexual revolution.” Publishes Forever …: the big one, about a girl losing her virginity.
Marries again (to a physicist); moves to Los Alamos, New Mexico, with her children. The couple divorces two years later.
A different, semi-autobiographical book: Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, about a 10-year-old who uses fantasy to escape her fears. Blume offers that Sally “explains how and even why I became a writer.”
First novel for grown-ups: Wifey, about STDs and swinging. Blume appears in People in a lacy teddy, under the headline THE JACQUELINE SUSANN OF KIDS’ BOOKS GROWS UP.
Forever … is made into an issue-of-the-week TV movie on CBS.
The Reagan era arrives, bearing angry conservatives. In Missouri, a family tears up its library cards to protest the presence of Forever …. Blubber is pulled from school libraries in Maryland and Arizona. Jerry Falwell signs a letter on behalf of the Moral Majority opposing books like hers. Blume’s personal life, however, is picking up: After she’s set up with George Cooper, a law professor, by a friend (with some help from Cooper’s daughter), they move in together after two dates, and marry in 1987.
Just before the publication of Tiger Eyes, her editor advises her to cut a masturbation scene. She puts up a fight, then agrees—the only time, she says, that she’s voluntarily censored herself.
Smart Women, her second adult novel (about a love triangle among friends), is panned by critics, including Michiko Kakutani: “Her characters’ penchant for psychobabble makes the reader feel as though he were paging through the latest self-help text.”
Has a hysterectomy following a cervical-cancer diagnosis, which she doesn’t discuss for more than a decade. Fudge, the TV series, premieres, running for two seasons. “They wouldn’t let me anywhere near it,” says Blume later. “It was terrible … a degrading, humiliating experience.”
Summer Sisters, dealing with lesbian experiences, becomes a best seller.
At a testimonial dinner, the activist and comedian Paul Mooney jokes: “I’m very honored and privileged to be here for Judy because I’ve never seen people hate a white woman the way they hate her.” The crowd gets into a fist-pumping chant of “We must—we must—we must increase our bust!“
Announces via blog that she’s had a mastectomy and reconstruction for breast cancer. “I have small breasts … ‘A-cups?’ the breast surgeon asked at our first meeting. She nailed it. I told her the exercises didn’t work for me. Not sure she got my attempt at a joke.”
Tiger Eyes, her first feature-film adaptation, will be released, directed by her son, Lawrence. And a new book is in its first draft.
“I was a child … I had no experience as an adult.”
“I don’t think so … to me, Margaret will always be 12.”
“I can imagine next year’s headline: GOODNIGHT MOON BANNED FOR ENCOURAGING CHILDREN TO COMMUNICATE WITH FURNITURE. And we all know where that can lead, don’t we?”
“My own adolescent rebellion came late, somewhere around the age of 35. I don’t recommend waiting till then. Better to drag your parents through it than your kids.”
“Good things about turning 75. Don’t have to take off shoes at airport security. Don’t have to submit to body scanner. Woot!”
“I love men, apart from one: George Bush.”
“Perhaps most shocking of all was a letter from a 9-year-old, addressed to Jewdy Blume, telling me I had no right to write about Jewish angels in Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself.”
Protesters have steadily tried (and usually failed) to have Blume’s books pulled from libraries and schools. Selections from three decades of their “justifications.”
“Undermines authority since the word ‘bitch’ is used in connection with a teacher.”
“The characters curse, and the leader of the taunting [of an overweight girl] is never punished for her cruelty.”
“Bad is never punished. Good never comes to the fore. Evil is triumphant.”
“[Its] treatment of immorality and voyeurism do not provide for the growth of desirable attitudes.”
Challenged at an elementary-school library because it explains how to drink whiskey, vodka, and gin.
“Is built around just two themes: sex and anti-Christian behavior.”
“The vilest sexual descriptions … [If given to] the wrong kid at the wrong time[, it would] ruin his life.”
“It demoralizes marital sex.”
“Pornography … [it] explores areas God didn’t intend to explore outside of marriage.”
Would encourage readers “to experiment with sexual encounters.”
“It’s basically a sexual ‘how-to-do’ book for junior high students … it puts ideas in their heads.”
“Does not promote abstinence and monogamous relationships [and] lacks any aesthetic, literary, or social value.”
“Cast of sex-minded teenagers is not typical of high schoolers today.”
Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea
Are You There God? It’s Me, Monica: How Nice Girls Got Casual About Oral Sex
Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer
Are You There God? It’s Me, Mary: The Shangri-Las And the Punk Rock Love Song
“Are you there God? It’s me, Stan. If you wouldn’t mind, I don’t want to be the only kid who doesn’t get his period before the New Year.”