An Open Letter to Judy Blume

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Dear Judy,

So many times as a kid I wanted to write you. To me, you were like the “cool” aunt–somebody who understood me much better than I imagined my mother did. I’m not sure why I never did it, so I’m taking a moment to do that now.

Thank you for your books. Thank you for your frank point of view–you seemed to really get me. Perhaps you also had a bit of a hard time during your teens–but then most teens feel they have a hard time.

Thankfully, I never had to hide your books from my parents. They were pretty okay with me reading whatever I wanted. I began with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I loved that Margaret was much like me–worrying about getting my first period and the time it was taking for my boobs to grow in, hoping and praying my best friend wasn’t first! The horror! Isn’t that funny–what was I so excited about? Turns out, like a lot of things, it was a lot better in theory than in real life. I also learned a bit about Jewish culture (and New Jersey!) from Margaret. Growing up in small town Arkansas, I didn’t know any Jewish kids, and you showed me a glimpse into a girl who was very much like me. You helped open my mind to other viewpoints and lifestyles from my white bread, rural, Southern Baptist life. Nobody would have expected a children’s author to tread into such deep theological territory, but you did.Thank you for that.

Deeny was another favorite. Deeny explained to me a bit about scoliosis, which I was to develop a few years later, although very minor in comparison. My daughter as well has been diagnosed with it, and Deeny’s experience resonated in my mind. Because of your book, I knew a little about this beforehand.

When I became a mom myself, the first of your books I read to them was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. My son especially enjoyed Fudge’s personality (seeing that he was of similar nature, it’s no surprise), and so did my daughters. All my kids LOVED Otherwise Known Sheila The Great (which is still on our bookshelf, and my youngest is 16) the most, I think, and more than once I heard the favorite phrase “Sunny Sheila Tubman!” sang around the house.

I know parents and scholars alike have analyzed your work over and over–I’m far from the first. Thanks to you, my favorite childhood author, I began to write stories of my own, and my love of reading has never lessened.  I’m now an English teacher and author, in part to you and your influence.

For now, I think I’ll go buy your newest book In The Unlikely Event. I can’t wait to read it.

So thank you, Judy, for so many reasons. And here’s a confession for you: sometimes, when I’m alone, I yell “Sunny Sheila Tubman!” … just for fun.

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