Girls who grew up in the '80s will remember that some adults viewed Judy Blume’s novel Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret. as an inappropriate, scandalous “sex book.” Thanks to Ronald Reagan’s administration, it was even banned from libraries across the United States. Of course, its censorship made us all the more interested in reading it.
When I explained the negative attitude surrounding the book during my youth to my daughter, Teagan, she was quizzical.
“What’s the big deal? Things that happen to Margaret happen to all the girls my age. It’s normal.”
Normal for lots of girls, indeed.
Margaret and her friends helped make peeking inside our dad’s Playboy, wanting our breasts to grow, and getting our long-awaited “menstroo-ation” feel normal. It’s no wonder that a number of thirty- and fortysomething women recognize Margaret Simon as the heroine who helped us survive puberty. Now, we want to share this novel with our own tween daughters so they too can feel reassured.
According to Teagan, today’s girls still relate to Margaret regardless of references to her knee socks and hair curlers. Our heroine was a late bloomer who worries about her sexual development. She even prays to God about it.
“The book has a first-person point of view,” Teagan said, “so we know what Margaret says and thinks at all times. It’s like we are right there with her while she waits for her first period.”
My daughter was comfortable reading this coming-of-age novel with me. We spent as much time discussing it as we did reading it. I was surprised at how knowledgeable and mature she was about girls’ changing bodies. Her response to my surprise? “No kidding mom. I read my The Care & Keeping of You books at least 10 million times.” To which, of course, I smiled.
And boy, did we ever laugh; especially when Margaret and her friends practised their breast-growing exercises while chanting, “We must—we must—we must increase our bust!”
In a recent interview with the author, Lena Dunham described Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. as a “bible for girls” that turned Blume into “the voice assigned to all the young women developing breasts in the world.” Dunham has a point. Generation after generation of young women still relate to Margaret on her journey to grow into a young woman —and into her bra.
Once upon a time, Carole Besharah catalogued picture books as a library technician in primary schools. With a B.A. and a lifetime of reading under her belt, she now writes children’s stories of her own. Carole lives at the foot of the enchanted Gatineau Hills with her husband and their two children.