Telling it like it is with several doses of humor: I strive to do this whenever writing about sensitive, touchy, potentially controversial topics, in the manner of writer Judy Blume whose young adults novels are classics of adolescent angst and hormones. “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” was better, and more informative, than any sex ed class; it portrayed the messy, don’t-talk-about-stuff — menstruation — as what it is, a seminal event in a girl’s life.
It’s not surprising that, in a post entitled !@#$% Happens on her own blog today, Judy Blume writes about having breast cancer, her body and her decision to have a mastectomy with reconstruction in the same straightforward tone that has won her millions of fans, not to mention the honor of being one of the most banned authors in the US.
Plenty of people wouldn’t consider seeing five of their 20 books on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books an honor. “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” is on the list for its frank talk about puberty down to the nitty gritty of menstrual blood. “Forever” is on it for its scenes of two teenagers having sex. Without any apologies for PC concerns, “Blubber” depicts a girl being mercilessly bullied because she’s overweight. ”Tiger Eyes” is about violence — murder — alcoholism and suicide.
Blume writing about breast cancer will probably be banned by someone. With nary a violin playing in the background or a “why me,” she notes her initial shock and her jumping into action with research about what to do. As her fans would expect, she does not sugar coat what goes on in a woman’s head when told that a very significant part of her anatomy is diseased.
Blume gets right to the point and talks about her breasts and her aging body. She describes making a joke about A-cups and certain exercises to increase the bust not having worked for her. She decides on a mastectomy instead of radiation, wishing to have as little anesthesia as possible and the speediest recovery. Six weeks after diagnosis, she has surgery and, she writes, her recovery is going well.
In reading !@#$% Happens, I felt that I was hearing the voice of an old friend. Certainly Blume’s novels, synonymous with adolescent experience, have played that role for the many of us in families in which menstruation and maturing bodies were mentioned in hushed tones and as a shameful sign that a “little girl” is gone.
Even in the midst of devastating news about her health, Blume is still telling it like it is. That’s why we need her and why her honest writing can never be silenced.
Please send Judy Blume the very warmest wishes for a speedy recovery and a huge thank you for her books and her support for women’s issues.
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Photo from Simon and Schuster