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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are You There God? It's Me, Elisabeth.

Welcome back to our ongoing celebration of intellectual freedom during this year's Banned Book Week! Way back when, when I was in fifth or sixth grade, I read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I remember loving the book and identifying closely with the main character, but have since forgotten much about it. The book centers on the titular six-grader, her confusion about God (Her father is Jewish, her mother is Catholic.), and her clique's fascination with their developing bodies. (I ended up reading a few synopses of the book to refresh my memory. I'm not telling how long it's been since I was in middle school, but this book was published in 1970! No, it hasn't been that long!) Since 1970, Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret has been challenged, and in some cases removed, from libraries in Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

It turns out that I had forgotten most of the plot surrounding the religious issues. I do, however, remember many of the interactions between Margaret and her friends-their exclusive club, The Four Preteen Sensations; buying a first bra; waiting to see if menstruation would ever begin-and I wonder if it's because my life, along with so many other pre-teen girls was so similar. No, I didn't have to wear belted sanitary pads, and no, I didn't come from a household where more than one religious background was present. I was just an ordinary girl trying to get through those awkward years that everyone goes through. Judy Blume's willingness to delve into the minds, lifestyles, and culture of tweens and teens, and the ease in which she does it, is the crux of the appeal of not only this, but so many of her books.

So, why have librarians in twelve states had to deal with challenges over a book that is beloved by millions of pre-teen girls? According to Banned Books by Robert P. Doyle, complainants have described it as "sexually offensive and amoral", being "built around just two themes: sex and anti-Christian behavior", and "profane, immoral, and offensive" (26). I was fortunate enough to hear Judy Blume speak in a webinar entitled Defending the Right to Read a few days ago. When she spoke about censorship, she bemoaned the fact that instead of using books as conversation starters on hot button issues, many adults are afraid that when children read, they will commit every off-base act printed in black and white. This quote is from her website:
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.
This book, like many, many others, formed a seminal part of my years growing up. I'd like to send out a bif "thank you" to the librarian who recommended it. Also, I know you're dying to know: does the Mississippi Library Commission own a copy of Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret? You betcha--in English and Spanish!

Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books. American Library Association, 2007. Print.


  1. Has anyone ever told you you are an excellent writer? Nice post. Miss you. Cindy

  2. where is the source for the citation (26)???

  3. The source is at the very bottom of the post. It is Robert P. Doyle's "Banned Books," published by the American Library Association in 2007.


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