As someone who was born in the 80s and went through adolescence in the 90s, if you wanted information, you only had three avenues: your parents, your teachers, and books. And oftentimes, you feel such shame for the questions you had, especially since no one wanted to talk about it. Other times you would be reprimanded as being too young to be privy to such ideas.
It was in a Judy Blume book that I learned about periods, and felt less alone because I realised that all young people have insecurities about their bodies. She tackled taboo subjects with nuance and sensitivity, and I’m glad that I had her books to turn to when there was no one else. “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” was an important coming of age story not only for me, but so many of us growing up. That is the essence of this Judy Blume documentary – not merely about Judy’s life but the power and impact of her stories.
What is immediately so striking is how long lasting her correspondence with her readers were. Young people from all around the world would write to her about their problems, because of the authenticity of her books. She was an adult who managed to capture the realism of a young person’s life, so many readers felt that they could trust her with their secrets and pick her brain for nuggets of wisdom. It helped that she herself was a mother, who took inspiration from her children’s life events and situations.
The documentary moves chronically, starting with Judy’s struggles to find her niche as a writer, and then hitting her stride with “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”. She was the one who really pioneered the YA category, writing novels for teens and young adults who were ready to move up the literary ladder. As the film’s subject, Judy is candidly honest, acknowledging that while her husband at the time allowed her to pursue her creative ambitions, he never really supported her as a partner should. “Yeah you can have it all,” Judy says. “But not necessarily all at the same time.” It also charts the difficulties she faced regarding censorship and the backlash she received from adults who felt that her books contain themes inappropriate for young readers.
There’s all these interviews with various Judy Blume readers throughout the documentary, and they are so amazingly diverse. She was writing in the 70s, but some of us read her books much later and could still feel their impact. It’s just amazing and proves how some authors and books have the ability to resonate despite decades in between. The fact that there’s a film adaptation of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” coming out this year just highlights how there’s still interest in her books.
I do think this documentary will most pique the interest of readers of Judy Blume, those of us who are indebted to her and the lessons gleamed from her books. Her books are the true subject in this film, and it feels so nostalgic to turn over those memories in your head, and remember once again the person you once were when you read them.
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A wonderful, honest portrait of beloved author Judy Blume, who wrote from the heart - always.
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