Monday, September 27, 2010

What are YOU doing to celebrate Banned Books Week?

You may have heard that I am up to my EARS in Banned Books Week celebrations. All month, at my main blog, I've asked readers to send in photos of themselves reading banned books. (Keep 'em coming! I'm accepting submissions through the end of Banned Books Week!) In return, I've been sending readers some fabulous buttons to declare their own banned book-reading awesomocity. Here are the buttons:

And this week, for every single day of Banned Books Week (which started on Saturday, the 25th, btw), I've got an interview with a banned author of SCANDALOUS books. So I hope y'all will check that out and leave these authors some love!

In any case, I wanted to show y'all what I'M reading in celebration of Banned Books Week, since everyone has been so forthcoming in sharing their own favorite banned books.

When I was about ten (that's me in 4th grade, right there), I was pretty busy tearing through all the Judy Blume I could get my hands on. I had always been an advanced reader, and my mom was pretty good about letting me read what I wanted. (I remember picking up Patricia Cornwall and John Grisham from my dad's bookshelf when I was in 7th grade. I eventually got bored and traded them for some Piers Anthony Dad and I found at the bookstore.)And , at the time, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET. was like my Bible.

One night my dad took me to get a new book and I came home with FOREVER..., one of Judy Blume's most famous books. I was so psyched to read it and I showed my mom but she did not share my enthusiasm Actually, she sort of panicked. She took it and hid it away and told me that it wasn't appropriate reading for me. I was like what the heck, mom? It's by JUDY BLUME. How could anything Judy Blume wrote be scandalous?

(This goes to show that my pre-pubescent self hadn't quite picked up on the sexual subtleties of TIGER EYES and DEENIE, which remain some of my faves.)

Anyway, I never wound up reading FOREVER.... But as an adult I have not one but TWO copies of Blume's most banned book. And, putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, I figured I'd get my read on with the one book I was personally forbidden to read.

And I loved it.

I'm not going to go into a detailed review, because I'm probably the one person on the planet over the age of 18 who hasn't read FOREVER.... But I loved this book for its sensitive but uninhibited explorations of sexuality. I loved that the characters in the book were real teens that I related to as a kid who grew up in the 90s, even though they were written in the 70s. And I think that their experiences carry over in a way that remains real and relatable for today's teens.

Part of me remains surprised that this book was written in the 70s. It's pretty explicit, and I have to commend Judy Blume (or, THE JUDY, as I think of her) for not pulling any punches. Authors like Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, who are writing contemporary YA and selling jillions of copies, still get challenged every year for being too racy. And I'm really glad that they -- and other authors, myself included -- have THE JUDY to fall back on. She paved the road for writers who want to keep it real, and that's freaking awesome. So if you, like me, never got around to reading FOREVER... as a teen, I hope you'll go pick up a copy soon.

And, for the record, I hereby forgive my mother for not letting me read FOREVER... as a kid. I wasn't ready for it. Though, I'm pretty sure I would have been so scandalized by the first sentence of the book that I would have hid it from myself in the closet and forgotten about it until I was ready.


janflora said...

I also read all things Judy Blume way back in the 80s and I clearly remember hiding FOREVER because I figured out pretty quickly that it was heavier than most of the books had been. BUT I also remember learning about Planned Parenthood and VD from that text. I can remember reading those letters "VD" like it was yesterday. Crazy! I went to a Catholic school, so some of the topics were new to me.
I also commend Ms. Blume for her bravery and skill, because I am sure I am not the only reader who learned something from her books. In the long run, I also remember learning that sex did not equal love. And that's an important lesson for teens of all eras.
PS: Just bought a 1st ed. of WIFEY, which is her first adult novel I believe. I think FOREVER was a transition novel for her. She rocks :)

E. Kristin Anderson said...

Thanks, Jan! I was a pretty sheltered kid, so I probably wouldn't have been ready for FOREVER... Until I was 17 or so. But we're all different and I so agree -- the subjects Judy Blume tackled were and are so important for teen girls to read about! Let me know how you like WIFEY! I have a copy but haven't had the chance to read it yet.

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