I've been a diehard bookworm since I could hold a book in my own two hands, and because of that life-long obsession, there are a lot of authors I credit with influencing the reader (and woman) I am today. J.K. Rowling made me believe in magic and the power of love, Octavia E. Butler showed me the worth of a woman, and Margaret Atwood taught me to challenge everything. But I can't help but be thankful for all the ways Judy Blume shaped my childhood. Without her books, growing up would have been a whole lot harder.
Though she began writing for kids, teens, and adults a full two decades before I was born, Judy Blume's books were a huge part of my youth because she just totally got me as a young adult. Her heroines were relatable girls who seemed to understand exactly what it was like to be me: awkward, confused, and overwhelmed with hormones and emotions I didn't quite understand. And unlike so many other YA authors, Judy Blume never seemed to talk down to me, a teenager reader, but instead used her books to engage in real, mature conversations I wouldn't dream of starting with either of my parents.
Judy Blume was like that cool big sister you always wanted, the one you could talk about sex with, ask boy questions to, or talk about your body with — all without feeling weird, ashamed, or awkward. Her books were like guidebooks through my teenage years. Without her, I'm not sure if I would be the young woman I am today, because it's undeniable that Judy Blume shaped my adolescence in these 5 ways.
1Judy Blume's books taught me the female body is nothing to be ashamed of, no matter what it looks like or what it does.
Girls become aware of body image at a very young age, myself included. I remember telling my mom I needed to go on a diet when I was seven and asking to get breast implants when I was 13, among the many other ridiculous requests and expectations I had for my adolescent body. Like so many other girls my age, and so many other fully grown women, I was convinced my female figure was something to be ashamed of — my waist was too big, my boobs were too small, and what my body did naturally once a month was so gross, it was actually a taboo subject (despite the fact that it happens to every woman with a female reproductive organs.)
I struggled with body image issues and embarrassment over basic womanhood throughout my teenage years, but one of the things that made it more bearable was Judy Blume's books. Her heroines struggled with the same uncomfortable feelings I had about my body, and unlike my younger self, many of them got through them. Her books like Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret and Blubber they taught me that getting my period or being fat was a problem our male-dominated society, not me, needed to learn to deal with. They helped free me from the unrealistic expectations I got from everything and everyone around me, and instead reinforced the idea that me, just a young woman learning to navigate the world in a female body, was more than good enough.
2She helped soothe my (many) broken hearts.
You know those typical, overly dramatic, boy-crazy teenage girls that show up in popular film and TV? I was exactly like one of those in high school, constantly falling "in love" with just about every dude I met. Perpetually caught up in a dramatic relationship with one rebellious boyfriend or another, I was always convinced I had found my forever guy.
Luckily, Blume books like Forever made me feel better when, every single time, I was wrong. Filled with romances that seemed as whirlwind-like as mine and often with the same outcome, Blume's teenage love stories were great guides to mending a broken heart. Not to mention, when combined with chocolate ice cream, they were entertaining distractions in between bad boyfriends.
3She showed me the importance of female friendships.
There is plenty of romance in Judy Blume's books, but along with all of the boy drama, there are several other important relationships — female friendships — that prove it should always be ovaries before brovaries.
4Her stories showed me that no family is perfect.
There are few families as close as mine, or as dysfunctional. Although I love them more than anything, growing up with parents who broke up and got back together as often as Rachel and Ross didn't make my teen years any easier. When things were at their worst, I used to imagine what it would be like to be a part of the perfect family — that is, until I realized there was no such thing.
Judy Blume's books — starring divorced parents, absent fathers, judgmental mothers, and troubled siblings — helped me come to the conclusion that every family had its own kind of baggage. Even the ones that looked happy in their Christmas cards and put together at church on Sundays had their own unique issues, just like mine. It helped me learn to love my family despite the problems, because no matter what issues we had, I knew I was lucky to know we always had each other.
5Her books reminded me I wasn't alone.
It's easy to feel alienated when you're a teenager, completely isolated in your own pain and problems, but I never felt completely alone with a book by my side. Whether I was struggling with boy problems, body image issues, bullying, or anything in between, I knew there was a Judy Blume book on my shelf that could help me make it through. Because what is most unique about her stories are how authentic, how genuine they are.
No one understands girlhood like Judy Blume. Or, at least, no one understood my girlhood like she did. Thanks, Judy. I couldn't have done it without you.