Judy Blume Stands Up for Kids Fighting Censorship in Chicago   

What Women Really Think
July 9 2013 4:46 PM

Judy Blume Is Still Standing Up for Kids

Love her.

Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

It's been five years since Judy Blume published a book, but the legendary children's and young adult writer is back in the news thanks to Tiger Eyes, the first movie adaptation of Blume's work, directed by her son Lawrence. Rookie magazine caught up with Blume to talk about the movie, and interviewer Jamia Wilson and Blume worked their way around to a subject that Blume's made a priority in recent years: not just speaking to teenagers' experiences in her novels but standing up for their rights to read books that challenge them, even if the content makes adults around them uncomfortable.

"They wanted to remove The Perks of Being a Wallflower from a middle school library near Chicago. I met kids who were defending the book the week before I saw you. I met them on Saturday afternoon and Monday night they had to present [their case] in front of the school board," Blume told Wilson. "The kids won the vote to retain the book—I think it was six to one."


It makes sense that an author who recognizes that children and young adults grapple with questions of faith, menstruation and masturbation, debilitating phobias, and extreme and disturbing misbehavior by their siblings would also recognize children as independent actors and support them, even and especially when it means challenging adults' assumptions about what's kid-friendly. "I always say that censors don’t come near you unless they know kids like your books," Blume told Wilson. "They’re not sitting there reading all of the books. They are waiting until they find out if kids like it first."

We don't hear a ton about book-burners these days, but that doesn't mean concerned parents aren't trying to get books removed from curricula and school libraries. Earlier this year, a Fairfax County, Va., mother tried to get Toni Morrison's Beloved out of her high school senior's English class; Chicago Public Schools removed Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir Persepolis from the seventh-grade reading lists on the grounds that the torture sequences were too intense; and a Northville, Mich., woman complained to her school system that Anne Frank was "pornographic" (the school disagreed).

Parents are always going to be anxious over how fast their children grow up. It's easy to dismiss these people as loons, but it's smarter for kids, school systems, and writers alike to instead try to make them understand that a book isn't going to blindside a child with ugliness or pain. Instead, encountering something tough on the page lets kids know that they aren't alone in their troubles—or makes them more ready for the realities that are coming for them as an inevitable part of growing up, no matter how hard their parents try to protect them. As Parker Posey's bookstore clerk told Louie last season, as he searched for a good read for his daughter: “Some of these books will let her take these feelings, these emotions, out for a safe kind of spin.” Blume's support for kids who are fighting for their rights to read isn't just about respecting them as readers. It's about preparing them to be citizens.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about culture and television for Slate’s “XX Factor” blog. She also contributes to ThinkProgress and theatlantic.com.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?