Are you there, God? It’s her, Judy Blume — author of the classic Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and 27 other books. She’s also an outspoken leader against censorship and one of America’s most beloved and bestselling authors.
Blume will appear on Saturday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Berkeley Community Theatre at a special event within the Bay Area Book Festival. Tickets are now available. Book festival organizers expect the event to sell out.
The event will celebrate the publication of Blume’s latest novel for adults, In the Unlikely Event (Penguin Random House), which will be released on June 2.
It’s appropriate that audiences in Berkeley, home of the Free Speech movement, will be among the first to hear Blume present and sign the new novel. Some readers will remember how Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and others among her young adult books, such as Forever, were banned in the 1980s because they address topics such as menstruation, sexuality, and religious questioning.
“She dared to tell the truth and say it in books for children,” said Walter Mayes, librarian at the Girls’ Middle School in Palo Alto and a friend of Blume’s for 34 years, who will interview her. Blume’s books, in fact, were among the “most banned” in the late 20th century, according to the American Library Association.
Blume, an active board member of the National Coalition Against Censorship, describes on her website why she thinks censorship of children’s books happens:
I believe that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.
Blume has written fewer novels for adults. In the Unlikely Event will be her fourth. Mayes said: “She writes about adult women in a way that harkens back to how adolescence left markers for them in their adult lives. A lot of women turn to Judy as an adult novelist because they’re looking to her for guidance: ‘You got me through adolescence, now you can get me through adulthood.’ A Judy Blume heroine does not stay down for long.”
As for her fiction’s appeal to men, Mayes added, “I’ve always told male friends of mine that if you want to really understand the woman you’re in love with, you need to read the novels she cherishes, you need to learn about her heroines.”
In the Unlikely Event concerns three generations whose lives are profoundly changed by a series of tragedies in the 1950s — a succession of real-life airline crashes in New Jersey.
Rachel MacNeilly, Adult, Teen and Collection Development Manager at the Berkeley Public Library, believes that Blume exerts a “rare and powerful intergenerational tie…. We first see it on the faces of children who are just getting to know her. We see it when our teens discover her timeless novels. And we see it on parent’s faces when they watch those worlds open up for their children.”
The June 6 event offers a special ticket package designed for a parent and offspring (of any ages) to share the experience: two seats and one copy of the new book, for $45.
Blume notes on her website, “I wish the censors could read the letters kids write.” She cites this one:
I don’t know where I stand in the world. I don’t know who I am.
That’s why I read, to find myself.
Elizabeth, age 13
This post was written by, and is sponsored by, the Bay Area Book Festival. For more information about the festival, which takes place on June 6-7, 2015, visit the festival website. Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the Bay Area Book Festival.