Judy Blume helped raise me.
I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret the summer between 2nd and 3rd Grade, while I was at daycamp. I used to beg to stay inside and read, while the other hooligans played in the heat. My camp counselors made no bones about how weird they thought I was, but Margaret Simon was figuring out her world, and I needed to know more about these belt things because my mother had certainly never breathed the words menstrual cycle to me.
I had already read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, and had Superfudge all lined up to go, but none of Blume’s books affected me like Blubber.
In a little twitter chatter with the fabulous Martha Brockenbrough, I learned that Blubber is one of the most contested books in school libraries. What the devil for?! A little goggling tells me that the book is most often banned because of offensive language and the fact that the ringleader of the bullies goes unpunished for her cruelty. Er…okay? So reality is reason to ban?
I write and delete so many posts that I can’t always remember what I’ve said, and what I haven’t. Forgive me if I am repeating myself here. I was driven out of a school by a trio of girls, who were unrelenting in their bullying my 6th grade year. By the last quarter, I’d had enough and finally stood up to the girls and announced (before my parents had agreed to it) that they were such awful human beings, I wasn’t even coming back to their stupid school. After that, two of them were aggressively nice, and even continued to try to phone me the next year and convince me to return to the school.
Blubber became something of a how-to manual for me. In elementary school, I had determined never to be a Wendy, or even a Jill, and I was thankful I hadn’t ever been a Linda. When 6th grade, the new state, new uniform, and new school rolled around, I learned very quickly just how easily one can become the Linda, and then I honestly scoured that book trying to figure out how Linda had turned the tide on her oppressors. I never managed to unlock that secret, but for me, the trick was standing in the middle of a classroom and screaming lines from The Merchant of Venice like they were scripture.
And, embarrassingly, I became the Jill in high school, when my throwaway comment about a girl I was jealous of, became the nickname and catchphrase that pushed her over the edge of an eating disorder and out of school. Also like Jill, I tried to clean up my mess to little avail. I’m still ashamed of that. And I should be!
Frankly, I think Blubber should be required reading at the junior high school level. It should be taught as an anti-bullying PSA. And it should be appreciated for its realism.
Actually, I think you could build an entire 7th grade human relations study around Blume’s books.
Health teachers can pass out Margaret Simon’s tome to teach girls about their innards, and Tony Miglione’s story can be given to the boys, who are surely struggling with their sheets about that age. Forever can be used to help teach kids about the emotional repercussions of sex. Tiger Eyes can be used to teach about life and death, and everything in between.
Marry Blume’s works to Madeleine L’Engle’s and you’ve got science and math covered, too!
This is totally the world I want to live in.