*I have done a IMWAYR blog each week, I’m not sure where my numbers got mixed up*
This weekend I went home for the holidays and celebrated by hanging out with my old shelf. Two of my favorites have always been Staring Sally J. Freeman as Herself and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margret, both by my girl Judy Blume. It has been a few years since I read these two so I decided to crack them open again. Now I am reading them as a
young woman who (somehow) survived puberty and adolescence and is working on an education degree, so my mindset is quite different to the preteen/teen who read them before. I also chose to reread these titles because they have both been challenged and banned before and have diverse themes.
Sally J. Freeman has an element of everything. Her home life includes her, her mom, brother and grandmother. Now don’t go thinking her dad is out of the picture or was left behind in a divorce – he lives in New Jersey while the rest of the family moves to Miami Beach due to his job. Blume sets this plot up in the late 1940s with tension of WWII still fresh in the air. The Freemans are a Jewish family in a very Christian community. This becomes clear to ten year old Sally in the most minor ways as she grows accustomed to her new school and apartment building. No other families are glared at the way the old lady upstairs glares at them and their family is always the last one to get to use the community telephone in the lobby. All the while Sally is learning to make more friends, competing with her brother for attention at home and all those fun changes we all get to experience during puberty. Anti-Semitism and racism are strategically built in to this story of a ten year old with dreams to dance on a stage.
Margret also hits at some religious topics in a big way, I mean it’s in the title after all. Like Sally, Margret and her family have just moved, but they move to New Jersey from New York City. Margret’s parents have raised her without a religion because they each have a separate faith and would rather let her choose once she is old, rather than making a decision for her. This was never a problem until she is asked questions like, “Do you swim at the YMCA or the Jewish Community Center?” or “Will you be attending church or synagogue this holiday weekend?” All of a sudden she is lost in herself. Her teacher assigns everyone a personal project – to focus on something all year that will better themselves and report back periodically. Our heroine takes this chance to explore religions and form her own relationship with God. Not only that, but now Margret has to make new friends and twelve year old girls are particular about EVERYTHING. Luckily, she bonds with a few girls who help her through life as she goes to her first boy/girl party, buys a bra and learns boys can be more than just classmates. The characters and dialogue in this book always make me laugh and cry, I would recommend it to any teenage girl.