I have been meaning to write you this letter for quite some time. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been front of mind as I mother my young daughter through her first years of adolescence.
Thank you for making the choice to courageously pioneer a voice for young girls in the throes of puberty. You helped so many understand that it is perfectly natural to wrestle with their emotions, feelings and sexuality.
Last spring, during our women’s circle, we shared memories and stories of our first menstrual cycle. I was blown away by the reaction to my personal story, and sad to learn how this beautiful rite of passage was addressed, (or not addressed at all) back in the day.
Our group determined that our parents were uncomfortable, uninformed, or had been taught that menstruation marks the beginning of something dirty or shameful.
The stories of silence, neglect, and shame shared in our circle made me cry. Out of eight women, only one had a positive menarche story.
I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret around the time my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer and experienced my first period shortly after she went through a full and successful hysterectomy. I recall nonchalantly buying a pad from the bathroom dispenser at the movie theater (Grease was playing), then going to the store after the movie to buy my pads and take care of ‘it’. There was no celebration. I didn’t even say anything to my mom because she had so much going on at the time.
Eventually my parents found out and a lot of conversations about NOT getting pregnant followed.
All these year later, I realize that your book prepared me for my first menstrual cycle.
Carol, the wise grandmother of our group, found it interesting that your book played a part in mothering me through my first period. She recommended that I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret again to get reacquainted with the story.
Reading your book again would be quite easy because still have my original copy! The picture above is my copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret with yellowed, dog-eared pages. My name and address proudly penciled in the back of the book. I’ve carted this book around for more than 30 years. Now I know why!
If anyone tried to determine the most common rite of passage for preteen girls in North America, a girl’s first reading of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would rank near the top of the list. – Amazon
It was time to read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret again. Reading “We must, we must, we must increase our bust” made me chuckle. I recall trying that exercise at 12 years old, thinking it was hilarious (still do). It worked! HA!
I remember feeling sad for the young girl, Laura who’s body developed quicker than everyone else. Laura’s character was similar to a grade school friend who was teased incessantly about the size of her chest. Kids used to ask her to jump up and down to prove that her breasts were real!
You explored religion from the perspective of an only child being raised in a nondenominational household. I found this most interesting as I was an only child, raised in a Catholic household. Today my husband and I choose to raise our daughter is a nondenominational household, with access to any religion she chooses. We practice loving kindness.
Around the time my daughter Marin turned 12, I uploaded Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to her kindle as a special gift (that wasn’t received the way I hoped it would be). As a matter fact, the ‘gift’ created some significant drama around trying to make her read something she had absolutely no interest in reading. I was floored. After using her reaction as a teaching moment, I surrendered. The book would remain on her kindle unless she chose to delete it.
This summer, I mentioned that I was writing a letter of gratitude to you and asked if she might review your story from a teenage girl’s perspective in 2014. She said “Sure.” My daughter agreed to read your book!
We each read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in one sitting. Marin on her kindle and me with my treasured original copy.
When we reviewed our experiences the next day, I learned that what initially kept Marin from wanting to read the book was the title. She thought it was going to be all about religion and God, which wasn’t something she wanted to read at the time. She quickly realized that this wasn’t a book about religion, but more about growing up, puberty and having a personal relationship with God.
Marin said that she could totally relate to the story and felt like you knew your audience. She liked that you knew who you were talking to and shared that a lot of similar experiences and shenanigans happen today in her school. She also felt sad for the Laura Danker character and said that Nancy’s character drove her nuts!
I learned that none of her friends ever talked about getting their periods or wanting to have them start, but handled this milestone in a matter of fact, “I got my period over the summer” kind of way. Marin said that she and one of her friends were the only girls in her circle that experienced a rite of passage celebration. My husband and I celebrated our daughter’s menarche with a special dinner, flowers and sweet treats. Witnessing my husband give Marin roses and congratulate her on becoming a young woman busted my heart wide open.
Marin and I now have a ‘secret moon time box’ filled with sweet and salty snacks for women only! We’ve also made a family pact that the first day of our menses be a special ‘red tent’ day with plenty of quiet time to rest and nibble on chocolate.
While revisiting old memories and creating new stories, I wondered who else may have benefitted from reading your books. I asked the women who frequent the Transformation Goddess Facebook page: “Did you ever read “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume when you were young? If so, do you remember what you took away from the story?” The majority of women who answered my post had read your book!
Here’s what they said:
“I read it and I remember loving it. I remember it made me feel like there was someone else who had internal dialogues, confusion and angst about things. I remembering it being important to me way back then.”-Pam S.
“Yup! I read it and no, I don’t really remember all that much BUT I do remember that I can talk to God anytime I want.”-Peggy N.
“Oh my goodness I have to laugh and grin and chuckle! I’m doing a life assessment as preparation for an advanced program next month and I just went through the pre-pubescent period of my life. What I took away from this book is my mom had VERY FEW Resources to support her during this time of my life.” -Laura C.
“I did read it – several times in fact. You would think I would remember more of the content. The title makes me think that I wanted God to notice me – may have been feeling lonely or invisible!” -Sheila C.
“I LOVED that book! I look forward to reading it with my daughter when the time is right.” -Dina O.
Judy, thank you for having the courage to explore topics that were taboo back in the day. Your stories stand the test of time. I will be forever grateful that you and your beautiful books showed up in my life more than 30 years ago and again today.
With Big Love and Infinite Gratitude,
Shann Vander Leek, Mother of a Teenage Daughter
About Judy Blume
Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, NJ, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places, doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Superfudge; Blubber; Just As Long As We’re Together; and Forever. She has also written the best-selling novels Wifey; Smart Women; and, Summer Sisters. More than 75 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into twenty-six languages.
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