BY PAT BURNS
It’s no wonder the world’s gone bonkers for Judy Blume. With numerous television, radio and podcast interviews, major media networks are touting Judy Blume and her two new feature film releases, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Judy Blume Forever, her life’s story documentary. With so much media attention, the interest in her life’s work has surged to new heights. As well it should.
In the early 70s, Judy Blume went from suburban homemaker and mother to literary phenomenon. During that time, if you were part of the of baby boomer generation and had daughters, most likely they were part of the millions who read her books. If you were a preteen at that time, you know the impact her books had on an entire generation looking for truthful answers to questions about adolescence. Judy Blume’s superpower was her ability to tell the truth and her masses of fans loved her for it.
“Then, around the age of 25, as a stay-at-home wife and mother of two, she felt that something was missing in her life.”
Blume—who was born Judy Sussman in Elizabeth, New Jersey on February 12, 1938 never imagined she would be a writer. While growing up she wanted to be a cowgirl, an actress, or a detective. Writing books was the furthest thing from her mind. Then, around the age of 25, as a stay-at-home wife and mother of two, she felt that something was missing in her life.
Daughter Randy Lee was born in 1961.
Romper reported, “In 1961, Blume became a first-time mom when she and then-husband John welcomed their daughter, Randy Lee. After becoming a mom, Blume became a homemaker in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, taking care of her little girl.
“While Blume rarely discusses her adult children in public, we do know that her daughter, Randy is a therapist and clinical social worker who lives in Cambridge. Randy Blume became a therapist with a sub-specialty in helping writers complete their works. She has one child, Elliot Kephart, who is credited with encouraging his grandmother, Judy Blume, to write the most recent “Fudge” books.
Blume welcomed her son Lawrence Andrew in 1963.
“When her children were toddlers she did her best to follow in her mother’s footsteps by raising model children. “She told me to polish the children’s shoes and wash their laces every day while they’re napping,” she told The New York Times. “And guess what? I did, until I started to question it.”
Blume’s son Lawrence is a filmmaker whose credits include directing a critically-acclaimed 2012 adaptation of her beloved book Tiger Eyes.
Judy Blume’s ability to write from the perspective of her youthful readers has guaranteed her status as one of American children’s most popular authors, while simultaneously making her the target of—and a defender against—censorship.
During an interview at the Chicago Lit Festival, Blume said “I started composing rhyming picture books while I was washing the dishes in the evening after dinner.” That exercise lead her to write longer fiction for preteens and teens.
Now at the age of 85, she has published more than 25 novels that have been translated into 32 languages, selling more than 85 million copies (and counting.)
Speaking to People magazine, Blume remarked on her marriage with husband George Cooper, a former law professor, also 85, who she has been with since 1979. Judy gushed, “He moved in on our second date.” She continued, saying “We’ve been through a lot together and he’s wonderful. I mean, we’re so different. We’re so the same, but then we’re so different. He’s laid back. No anxieties. And he makes me feel so safe in my world, just being with him.” Cooper has one daughter from a previous marriage, Amanda, to whom Blume is very close.
Judy and her husband have been married for 36 years. Between them they have three grown children and one grandchild.
Blume and Cooper own and operate Books & Books, an independent bookstore in Key West, Florida. Books & Books is a nonprofit, independently minded neighborhood bookstore located in The Studios of Key West, an art center on the west side of town. It’s not only the charm that draws people to Key West. It’s famed for many things, not the least of which is a literary tradition developed by the cadre of renowned writers who worked amidst and were inspired by its palm shaded streets—Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, John Hersey, Robert Stone, Annie Dillard, and Anne Beattie, to name a few.
Listen to your gut
According to a recent AARP interview, Judy explained that you should listen to your gut. “I was having dinner with my husband, George, one night in 2018 when I noticed something wasn’t right. He looked yellow. It was the weekend, and he said he felt fine, that he’d go to the doctor on Monday. I said, “No, no, no. Now.” We called our doctor, who told us to get to the ER right away. George had pancreatic cancer. He got treatment immediately. He is one of the very, very lucky ones who has survived. He is beautiful, healthy, handsome, fabulous.”
“Now at the age of 85, Judy Blume has published more than 25 novels that have been translated into 32 languages, selling more than 85 million copies (and counting.)”
Blume continues to speak her truth by confronting the current censorship movement and banning of books. Books & Books proudly offers a dedicated section of the store for books being banned. She is quoted as saying “Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts a parent can give a child.” The same message holds true for grandparents and their grandchildren.
According to an ABC News wire, “Censors have offered their own kind of tribute to Blume by trying to keep young people from reading her. “Forever,” “Are You There God?” and “Deenie” have been frequently challenged and complained about over the past 30 years, according to the American Library Association. Blume noted that a bill being considered by the Florida House would ban discussion of menstrual cycles in elementary schools, legislation that reminds her of a local principal in New Jersey who objected to “Are You There God?” when it was first published. He said, “I can’t
“Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts a parent can give a child.” The same message holds true for grandparents and their grandchildren.”
have girls in our school reading about this.’ And I’m like, ‘Do you know how many girls in the fifth and sixth grade have already had their periods?’” Blume says. “Now, look what’s going on in Florida. You have girls being told not to talk about menstruation. What are you going to do? Of course they’re going to talk about it.”
“Blume has not written a full-length book since “In the Unlikely Event,” published in 2015. But she is never far from her 12-year-old self, the self of “Are You There God? ” and other books, the age when she was “on the brink,” as she calls it, looking ahead to a life that has been her happiest and most surprising creation.
“When I look into a kid’s eyes, when one of them comes into the bookstore, I can feel a connection,” she says.
Blume’s advice on aging
And, for us grands, Blume shares her gleaned wisdom about aging: ‘Keep moving. Keep dancing! Keep doing whatever you can do.” Spoken with authority, Judy’s message speaks the truth and are worth taken to heart.
With a cast of award winning actors and staying true to her 1970 blockbuster novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and her life’s story documentary Judy Blume Forever are both streaming on Amazon Prime.
Blume has won nearly 100 literary awards, including the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award and Distinguished Contribution to American Letters of the National Book Foundation.
What Judy says about learning to write
“A lot of my readers ask me for “writing tips.” I wish it were that easy! There are no hard and fast rules for writing, and no secret tricks, because what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Everybody is different. That’s the key to the whole business of writing – your individuality.
I once met a woman who wanted to write. She told me she’d read 72 books about writing but she still couldn’t do it. I suggested that instead of reading books about writing, she read the best books she could find, the books that would inspire her to write as well as she could.”
Judy shares how she became a writer. “When I was growing up, I dreamed about becoming a cowgirl, a detective, a spy, a great actress or a ballerina. Not a dentist, like my father, or a homemaker, like my mother— certainly not a writer, although I always loved to read. I didn’t know anything about writers. It never occurred to me they were regular people and that I could grow up to become one, even though I loved to make up stories inside my head.”
Judy Blume Forever
Listen to Judy Blume’s interview on Fresh Air here.
Architectual Digest featured Judy’s beautiful Key West home
Books by Judy Blume
In 2000 Judy Blum was named a Library of Congress Living Legend for her creative contributions to American life along with other notable woman such as Linda Chavez, Beverly Cleary, Annie Leibovitz. Gloria Steinem, Madeline Albright, Carol Burnett, Toni Morrison, Dr. Sally K. Ride and