Friday 9 November 2012

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

I'm not all that familiar with Judy Blume. I didn't read her when I was a child. I'm not sure that she was all that available in Australia back then actually. It's probably only in the past 5 years or so that I've even really heard of her and begun to appreciate her mystique and fame. After all, there is a whole book devoted to loving Judy Blume.

Which I have lurking in the TBR,
but I want to read some more Judy Blume first
Are you there God? It's me, Margaret was one of her early books, her first big seller, and her first to be quite controversial. Indeed even now Margaret stirs up controversy. It's a rather simple tale. Margaret Simon moves from New York to New Jersey with her family in the summer before she starts Sixth Grade. It's an anxious time, she will miss her grandmother in New York, wants to make new friends and is anxious about what her new school will be like.

Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret. We're moving today. I'm so scared, God. I've never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please help me, God. Don't let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you. 

Eleven year old Margaret does settle into her new school quite well, she makes a new group of friends, but is beset with worries about the onset of puberty. Margaret and her friends are conducting a race of sorts, noone wants to be last to get their periods, and they all want to get breasts. Originally published in 1970 Margaret needs to learn to grapple with the sanitary belts of the time. I read a 1982 edition that was still original, but was interested to see that these sections were updated to reflect more modern feminine technology. I would have preferred if the references to plaid dresses, plaid bedspreads and wearing her best velvet to a party had been updated. Was the world ever really like that?

Are you starting to see why this has been controversial? But then there's the religion bits, and we're there. Puberty, menarche and religion, it's like a trifecta for controversy.

Are you there God? seems to be plagued
 by the worst selection of covers of any book I've seen.
This was the version I read. 

Margaret is half Jewish and half Christian, but doesn't practice either. Her parents aren't religious and. they want her to choose her own religion when she's grown up, if she wants to. But in New Jersey, Margaret's friends either belong to the YWCA or the Jewish Community Centre. So she begins to think about it more, and attends a number of churches to learn about their beliefs and teachings.

I enjoyed my time with Margaret and her friends at an interesting time of their lives. I'll look forward to reading more of Judy Blume's books.



Marg said...

This is the only Judy Blume book I remember reading. I read it for obvious reasons - there were no other kids named Margaret when I was growing up so that was the main attraction.

Louise said...

I think that's as good a reason to read a certain book as any other Marg!

Susan said...

I read a lot of Judy Blume when I was young. I can't remember much about the books except that I thought they were good and that they made me vaguely uncomfortable. I should take another look at them from an adult perspective.