<![CDATA[SHE LIT: The Judy Blume Book That Changed Everything ♾️]]> SHE LIT: The Judy Blume Book That Changed Everything ♾️

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Banned coming-of-age novel that boosted middle grade genre finally gets its flowers

I finished Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret during a daylong doctor’s appointment when I was nine years old. The famous Judy Blume story was already over 25 years old when I devoured it in less than 24 hours. I was wearing a training bra and the loom of the period was hanging over my head since some of my fourth-grade friends already had theirs. I laughed at the characters kissing their pillows to practice kissing boys because I wasn’t there yet. I talked to God a lot growing up in an interfaith household like the main character Margaret.

With Margaret and her friends worrying about kissing boys, buying bras, and getting periods, the 1970 book has enjoyed a revival with a new film in theaters amid the latest banned books movement. Describing feelings many kids feel that many parents pretend are not there turned Judy into a best-selling author with Margaret revolutionizing the middle grade genre.

Judy Blume Forever, a new documentary on Amazon Prime Video about the author’s career, couples with the cinematic release of Margaret and the news of other forthcoming book-to-film adaptations like one for Forever…, the 1975 book that ushered in the young adult genre. In the documentary, Judy says the character of Margaret helped her dive deep to tell the story of a true American girl who is talking to God about the changes within her body and within her life.

The book was No. 60 on the list of most challenged books in the 1990s, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. This was a result of the rise of book bans inside public and school libraries under the Reagan administration for most of the 1980s. The frequent mention of menstruation made the book a target.

Florida, for example, is currently moving a billcoined the “Don’t Say Period” bill by some opponentsthat restricts reproductive education at schools. Girls on average start their periods between ages 10 to 16, according to the National Institutes of Health. They need access to Margaret to feel less alone in their experiences, especially if they won’t be taught about what’s happening within their bodies.

What we’re seeing now resembles the peak of book bans from 40 years ago. News of these bans have been relatively quiet until the past two years where the volume is getting louder by the day.

The film version of Margaret grossed $6.8 million in its opening weekend, below expectations with mostly women buying tickets compared to girls, according to Deadline. So, maybe the story mostly resonates with the girls of previous decades, but it’s a win for a long-censored book getting attention from Hollywood.

Because of Margaret and her subsequent books, Judy became used to her work being challenged. But it seems we see her more publicly as she fights back against the growing lists of books being challenged due to authors following in her footsteps of writing authentic fiction for kids. The kids who grew up reading her books are now writing their own, except the controversial issues remain the same.

The film should have a DVD release, but will the DVD be banned from public and school libraries like the book? To get around the library or even the bookstore, the book could be bought online or the film could be found on a streaming service, but will the kids who are wondering about their worlds find a story like Margaret? That’s the constant concern in this moment.

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What we’re highlighting

Illinois governor set to sign bill to deter book banning

Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, says he plans to sign the state’s House Bill 2789, which threatens to defund public and school libraries if they remove books on shelves based on consumer complaints. Illinois will be the first state to enact such a law whereas other local and state governing bodies are exploring the opposite direction: defunding libraries that fail to remove books that consumers requested be removed.

Miami nonprofit plans to provide banned books to Floridians

Black historian Marvin Dunn and his nonprofit, the Miami Center for Racial Justice, will launch a program to give families banned books in order for them to learn about Black history, according to Miami New Times. The professor emeritus at Florida International University was inspired to create such a program after the viral news that a history textbook removed the mention of Rosa Parks being Black to avoid violating Florida’s Stop WOKE Act.

Here are the May celebrity book club picks

Audacious Book Club and Read With Jenna are reading Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Belletrist Book Club is reading I Could Live Here Forever by Hanna Halperin

GMA Book Club is reading The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters

Lilly’s Library is reading Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

Noname Book Club is reading All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

Oprah’s Book Club is reading The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Reese’s Book Club is reading Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul

Also what’s lit…

  • Zaila Avant-garde, the first Black student to win the national spelling bee and basketball record holder, has a new advice book for teens out this week.

  • Ntozake Shange’s unpublished works will be released in the fall in a new book edited by Imani Perry.

  • Christine Platt of The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less teased a forthcoming novel about two neighbors exploring racial equity in suburbia.

What we’re reviewing

‘Joy Luck Club’ Author Amy Tan Shares How Her Work Became an ‘Unintended Memoir’

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Netflix debuted a two-hour documentary about Chinese American best-selling author Amy Tan that focused on how her books became reflections of her life and her mother’s life.

After seeing immediate success with her debut novel The Joy Luck Club in 1989, Amy started a writing career that followed the story’s legacy of featuring two generations of American-born daughters and Chinese-born mothers.

The documentary follows Amy’s childhood where she loses her older brother and father both within six months of their back-to-back brain tumor diagnoses. Amy talks about feeling scared being left with her suicidal mother, who moves Amy and her younger brother to Holland from the San Francisco Bay Area. Once she returns to the U.S. for college, Amy reconnects with her best friend who was another child of the real-life Joy Luck Club, a small social group of Chinese American immigrants who met to discuss investment opportunities, play mahjong and cards, and feast at midnight with the kids.

Years later, Amy is making a career as a business technical writer and living with her husband. One day she receives a call from her brother that her mother had a life-threatening heart attack. She said she made a vow to God that she will spend more time with her mother and talk to her about her life in China. When Amy connects with her mother, she learns her mother experienced angina after an argument at a fish market. Her mother was fine, but the promise echoes and inspires her to sit down with her mother and discover her mother’s life in China.

Check out the full blog post here

What we’re watching

Dear Mama on FX and Hulu is a five-part docuseries that shares the story of poet and rapper Tupac Shakur and his relationship with his mother Afeni Shakur. Afeni’s revolutionary roots taking sprout in the 1970s as a female leader within the Black Panther Party is also told in the 2005 book Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary by Jasmine Guy, best known as Whitley Gilbert in the classic NBC sitcom A Different World.

What the plans are

Nikki Giovanni will headline the Books in Bloom annual festival in Columbia, Maryland, on May 13 and will also participate in a panel discussing libraries and community centers.

No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, a show co-written by Eve L. Ewing that uses intricate paper puppetry and other multimedia elements, will play at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago from May 16-17.

Samantha Irby with Symphony Space will be in conversation for her latest essay collection Quietly Hostile with Cynthia Nixon, Ilana Glazer, Aminatou Sow, and Jia Tolentino at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on May 17 in New York City.

Where the opportunities are

Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press is accepting applications until May 21 for its 10-month paid Citizen Literary Fellowship designed to support a person who is interested in learning more about the publishing industry.

“We’re not telling you what books to buy or not buy. What we’re saying is, if a book is in circulation as determined by the libraries and the librarians, that book cannot be banned because a group of individuals don’t like or want that book in their library. That’s what the legislation is all about.”

– Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias on the passage of HB 2789

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