Judy Blume's teen classic 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' turns 50

The coming-of-age classic, focuses on 11-year-old Margaret as she navigates puberty and questions her faith after growing up without a religious affiliation.

Judy Blume (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Judy Blume
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The timeless children's novel Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, written by Jewish-American teen-lit icon author Judy Blume, turned 50 this past week.
The coming-of-age classic, focuses on 11-year-old Margaret as she navigates puberty and questions her faith after growing up without a religious affiliation due to her parents participating in an interfaith marriage, was written by Blume to reflect her own childhood experience - a certain viewpoint that she never found any other author to discuss prior.
Therefore, when she had her children, she began writing the tale - mirroring her own experiences as a child, according to CBC. It would go on to be named one of The New York Times' "Outstanding Books of the Year" (1970) the year of its release.
"It was my third published book, but the first real book, the book where I just let go. I didn't know what I was doing. I just did it — and this is what came out," Blume told host Tom Power in a "q" CBC Radio interview.
The book itself, generally categorized as a young adult novel, covers many taboo coming-of-age situations that other authors might hesitate to task on - including a character's experience with her first period or buying her first bra, sexual urges and even pornography. She notes the character, Margaret, is a medley of her friends at 12-years-old.
While these might be run-of-the-mill topics that authors would be happy to tackle today, in 1970 the book revolutionized young adult reading and even became the target of many censorship inquiries due to its sexual and religious content - some over the past five decades have even called for the book to be banned.
However, she never intended to create controversy, only to share the "honest" truth.
"I didn't really think about that. I just wanted to be real. I wanted to be honest," Blume told CBC Radio.
She then referred to her late development in adolescence, noting this made her obsess about natural processes - such as breast development and longing for her first period.
"I was small and not developed, and everything came later to me. So this was what I wanted desperately — and so does Margaret," the author told CBC.
"To me there was nothing wrong with thinking about getting your period and wanting your breasts to grow. It wasn't controversial in my mind. It was just true."
When the book published, she donated three signed copies to her children' elementary school, however, the principal refused them.
"The male principal was not a good guy for many, many reasons. But he removed them from the library, and he said, 'You know, girls in sixth grade are too young to read about this. We can't have these books in our library,'" Blume told CBC. "Never mind how many girls in fifth and sixth grade already had their periods in those days."
And while many aimed to ban the book, Blume recalls receiving countless letters from female readers saying the book helped them feel comfortable in their feelings and urges, and let them know they weren't alone - which Blume said invigorated her later work.
"They said all these incredible things, and I thought, 'Maybe I can really do this thing. Maybe I can really write.' Because I didn't know until then," Blume told CBC. "It was so reinforcing and supportive, and that's what every writer needs to keep going."
While many of Blume's tales have stood the test of time, they also represent figurative time capsules on where we were and where we are going. The agnosticism and blooming sexual awareness that once would have seen this book banned throughout many libraries the 70s, is laughable today - spotlighting Blume's visionary talent early on, a vision that will also stand the test of time.

Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.