Very few classics are left that I still care about reading some day. Hemingway I have always found a colossal overblown bore, so he never qualified for further perusal. That Russian guy I am too lazy to google who writes about the Brothers Whatitsname have held zero enticement for me.
But one book existed which I still really wanted to read. It was published in1970 and represented a sea change in children’s literature.
And now that I have finally read Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume, I can understand why.
This story is fast competing with Kavalier and Clay as my absolute favourite for the year. To say I was blown away by the greatness Judy Blume has created here is an understatement. Wow.
The story, for all those who have not been converted already like me, is all about Margaret. She is an eleven year old girl, an only child, whose parents abruptly decide to uproot their lives and move out of New York City. Ending up in a new town, meeting a new friend, developing a new crush on an older boy, and sporting a new fashion sense in order to fit in, Margaret slams through many new concepts over the course of a very short amount of time.
To top this all off, she reveals early on that because one parent is Jewish and the other Christian, Margaret has been raised with no religion. To say this causes some eyebrows to arch is an understatement. This, along with other factors, gives her a quest to find a faith, a year long journey filled with questions and adventures. To complicate matters, in Margaret’s young mind, is that she already has a relationship with God, who she talks to every night.
Margaret changes and grows, spiritually, socially and physically all through the book. At times she is too gullible, and other points mean, with a whole host of emotions playing out in between. These faults she finds in herself are later admitted to God during their nightly chats.
These real world intrusions of pleasures and problems into her manufactured faith is both a hindrance and help to her progress. But what we are really seeing is how a typical young child works through all these issues, real and imagined, to try to find a soft place to exist in their life. A place where they are loved and normal and surrounded by peace. The God Margaret invented helps give her that.
Against these weighty philosophically and self esteem issues, Judy Blume does an excellent job filling the backdrop with typical conundrums. Everything from gossips to untrue friends to parental disagreements are on display here, with Margaret quite often the helpless victim.
For this frank talk on religion and preteen life, this book has been constantly the target of censors. To add to the fuel for these twits to hate, Margaret and her friends have extremely candid conversations about sex, bras, periods, and all things puberty related. While reading this book, I could feel the candour of the subject matter making the small minded gasp. The fact this was first published in 1970 makes me wonder what shockwaves it created when it premiered.
Are you there God? It’s me Margaret may have come out over forty years ago, but in reality it is a timeless tale. A young girl named Margaret trying to find her way, all with the help of her God.
…is currently reading Superman: The Dailies 1939-1942 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.