Writing

Controversy and Censorship

Judy Blume

Lesson time 11:54 min

Judy remains one of the most banned authors in the country, with books that are still challenged by censors. She shares her hard-earned belief that writers need to remain true to themselves and the truth of their stories.

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Judy Blume
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In 24 lessons, Judy Blume will show you how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers.
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The first time it ever occurred to me that Margaret could be seen as controversial was when I gave three copies of the book to my children's elementary school. And the principal of the school, a man, decided that these books could not be on the shelf in the library of his school. Because in the book, Margaret gets her period and this was something that he considered beyond what a child should be allowed to read. Never mind how many girls in fifth and sixth grades already had their periods. That this could be considered controversial was-- I never really thought of it. I never thought I'm doing something really controversial when I was writing the book. Because I went into that determined to be honest. And that was such a part of my experience being in sixth grade. That the longing for, in my case, it was the longing for getting my period and being normal like the other girls. And I just wanted to share that, in a way, with my readers. I did get a phone call from a woman early on who asked me if I had written that book. And I proudly said yes I did, and she called me a communist and hung up. I mean, it's such odd, odd things. But it wasn't really until the 80s. Margaret was published in the early 70s, maybe 1970. I can't remember, 71. And the 70s was a very good decade for children's books, children's writers. A lot of us came along in the 70s writing, I think, books that we wanted to be honest and open. And because the 70s was a much more open and honest decade than what was coming in the 80s, this was good. And Richard Peck, and Norma Klein, and Paula Dan Sager. And so many of my- the writers who became my contemporaries. We all started out together in the 70s. And it was a good time for us. It was a good time because editors were willing to take chances on new writers. And it was a good time for the kids. My kids for instance, who were growing up then. I brought them home the most wonderful books. And those books, I think, meant a lot to them as they were coming of age. Books about real life, real people, real feelings. The things that were inside them. And they just both loved to read, I think, because they had these books. [THEME MUSIC] In the 80s, along with the presidential election. It was Reagan. The next day the censors came out of the woodwork. You know, we are going to demand that these books be challenged and removed. We don't want our children to read these books, therefore, no children should be allowed to read these books. That was the attitude. That's what happened. The American Library Association, the calls that they got to challenge books quadrupled, I think, almost overnight. And we got into a period where, forgive me for using that word, where our books were challenged. Sometimes banned from schools or school libraries. Not public libraries. Not bookstores. ...


Write timeless stories

Judy Blume broke the rules. Her refreshingly honest children’s books were banned by hundreds of libraries and loved by generations of readers, who bought 85 million copies of classics like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Superfudge. In her first online writing class, the award-winning author teaches you how to invent vivid characters, write realistic dialogue, and turn your experiences into stories people will treasure.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This has been a wonderful viewing. Insightful, wise, friendly and sharing with encouragement in the best senses which can come from both artist and teacher.

I absolutely loved Judy's approach to this class! She was warm, friendly, and made me feel like I was talking to a family member.

Inspired, Thank you Judy. Thank you very much!

It was mostly encouragement for me to keep doing what I am doing.


Comments

A fellow student

There's a certain beauty to all this controversial stuff. I can't quite pin it, but it's almost like looking at life from these certain angles and basking in what makes them a part of life.

Therese P.

Thank you Judy for being so very honest! My (previously) non reading pre-teen daughter finally became interested in reading after I introduced "Margaret". Just so you know she is now illustrating children's books (several years later). She was always an artist yet it took a bit to get her to embrace reading. Low comprehension made for lack of interest in books. BUT, Books that speak to these young (or old) people- to the.... heart...... of their reality have SUCH power. Readers will trudge through the reading difficulties when a book speaks to them...it can be the bridge that allows them to finally embrace the written word. And what a treasure the written word can be! Thank you for providing that to myself (through Margaret and First Grade Nothing) and thank you from my daughter. Great thanks to a true trail blazer; Your work does good things. You inspire me! Thank you Judy! Terri

Graeme R.

You are such an inspiration, Judy! There is no way to know the extent of the good you have done by talking openly about periods to young girls so that they could celebrate their beautiful, miraculous bodies. Or mentioning masturbation so that the millions and billions of kids who masturbate (let alone all us adults) could feel less guilty and more happily human. I love you for it, and so do countless other parents and human beings.

Mary H.

a better children's literature program (alternative to Accelerated Reader) can be found here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33637822-a-book-teacher-for-every-school?ac=1&from_search=true

Mia S.

"As a writer, you have to go into that little room and leave the fear outside. Get that censor off your shoulders so that you don't self-censor. Because all of this - censors' wishes to challenge our books has made a lot of writers afraid, and so they're going to self-censor. You don't want to do that - you want to write what needs to be there. Get it all down. Later, if somebody tells you, 'Oh you should really take that out,' that's going to be up to you if you want to have the argument with an editor and make your decision. [Charles] is so smart that he's able to articulate what he wants to get across, without going into four letter words - but here comes a moment when he is so angry and he's in the kitchen late at night with his younger sister, he toasts her, says, 'Here's to you, Rachel Robinson, here's to my whole fucking family.' I know that's what Charles would say, I know it, and he needs to say that. 'This is up to you, Jusy - I just want you to know, if he says that, we are going to lose book club sales, the book clubs will not take this book. If he says friggin family, the book clubs will take it.' I went home and thought about this, [My son] said, 'You're Judy Blume. If you can't be honest - if you can't use the word that you know this kid would use - then who else is going to be brave enough to do it?' I told Dick, 'This is what Charles would say - Charles has to say it. And I'll take my losses,but it has to be the right word. It has to be honest.' I have had a lot of letters about that, and I write back and explain it. I'm not telling your children they can say 'fucking' - I'm saying, this is what this character would say in this situation. You as parents can say to your kids, 'I don't ever want to hear you say that word.' And they're going to say it anyway, and maybe they're going to say it anyway, maybe out of it earshot. I'm proud that I stood up for what I thought was the right thing to do."

Mia S.

"In the 80s, along with the presidential election, Reagan, the next day the censors came out of the woodwork: 'We are going to demand that these books be challenged and removed. We don't want our children to read these books, therefore no children should be allowed to read these books.' That was the attitude, that's what happened - the American Library Association, the calls that they got to challenge books quadrupled, I think almost overnight. We got into a period (forgive me for using that word) where our books were challenged - sometimes banned from schools or school libraries. Not public libraries, not bookstores, but public schools, that's where the effort was made to get rid of our books. It was a tough time, I felt alone. Did I doubt myself? I don't think so, so much as the hurt that came with that, I'm trying to do something that I think is a good thing, I'm not trying to harm children. And that was painful, until I found the National Coalition Against Censorship, and once I found this wonderful, small, effective group, I joined up with them and I found my people. They were there trying to help us and help kids keep the books that they wanted to read. That was a great time for me, and I still am very active today. Times are very different now, but I have to tell you - books are still regularly challenged. Sherman Alexei's fabulous book, 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,' is challenged and often removed from the shelf, and why is that? What is it about that book? It's language, which is real, which is true. It's masturbation, which is to those who want to censor, that is the worst topic in the world - that's worse than having intercourse, when really, it makes for very safe sex. I've written about masturbation too, and I can tell you that that is the biggest no-no around. For a long time, kids never even knew I wrote that book, because the censors successfully had that book removed. It's back, I'm glad to say. Alexei's book is a book that I think everybody should read, I don't care how young or old you are - it's a book that really speaks to kids. If a boy comes into my bookshop and doesn't know what to read, I will take that book down from the shelf."

Mia S.

"The first time it ever occurred to me that 'Margaret' could be seen as controversial was when I gave three copies of the book to my children's elementary school, and the principal of the school - a man - decided that these books could not be on the shelf in the library of his school because in the book, Margaret gets her period, and this was something he considered beyond what a child should be allowed to read - never mind how many girls in 5th, 6th grades already had their periods. That this could be considered controversial was - I never thought, 'I'm doing something really controversial' when I was writing the book. I went into that determined to be honest and that was such a part of my experience, being in 6th grade - the longing for, in my case, getting my period and being normal like the other girls, and I just wanted to share that in a way with my readers. I did get a phone call from a woman early on who asked me if I had written that book, and I proudly said yes, and she called me a communist and hung up. I mean, it's such odd things. It wasn't really until the '80s - the 70s was a very good decade for children's books, children's writers; a lot of us came along in the 70s writing books that we wanted to be honest and open, and because the 70s was a much more open and honest decade than what was coming in the 80s, this was good. So many of the writers who became my contemporaries, we all started out to gether in the 70s, and it was a good time for us - it was a good time, because editors were willing to take chances on new writers and it was a good time for the kids. Those books, I think, meant a lot to them as they were coming of age, books about real life, real people, real feelings - the things that were inside them. [My children] just both loved to read - I think, because they had these books."

Kim B.

I loved this lesson! This is one of my biggest struggles, quieting my inner critic/censor. Having said that, I know what Judy's books gave me as a child and even as an adult is understanding and compassion for myself and others because her characters were experiencing things that helped me feel understood and "normal". Seeing through her character's eyes helped me see things in a new way. I'm glad she always wrote her truth and it inspires me to write mine. Thank you Judy!

Coffee During Teatime K.

I went to private school where her books were banned. Reading her now as an adult, I don't think I would have banned them.

Christina

It's funny how public schools try to censor language that children hear and speak every day. All children need is a smartphone and a cable channel, and they are exposed. I agree with Judy that it's up to the parents to teach their kids about proper language and instill their values. My mother knew that everyone said the F-word, but she told me that there was no place for this kind of language in the home or around adults. I learned not to speak that way and still today, I'm not the kind of person to use those kinds of words; that doesn't mean I'm going to censor those that use those word choices, particularly in literature. That's being ignorant of realistic dialogue that exists every day around the world. Isn't art about capturing the world around you? This is how the artist sees the world, and this is how they are showing what they understand. It's not up to anyone but the artist to choose how they want to present it to the world.