Travelling through Long Island on a visit to the US last autumn, I realised that the only knowledge I had of the area was based on reading Judy Blume’s Then Again Maybe I Won’t twenty years ago. In this book, the protagonist’s family get rich and move from Jersey City to Long Island. The adjustment this entails is a big theme throughout its pages. The same trip took me through New Jersey too and I reflected on how seeing the two places enabled me to understand this transition (and what it meant) much more clearly. At the time of reading, I was an adolescent in the English Midlands and my understanding of life in the US was based pretty much solely on Blume’s books and the Sweet Valley High series.
As my journey continued through suburbs and outwoods of New Jersey and New York, I wondered what it would be like to re-read Blume. Her writing had such a profound influence on me and I had enjoyed her books so much that I felt revisiting these works as an adult would be an interesting experience.
I didn’t think much more of it until this week. Whilst out for dinner on Tuesday, my friend and fellow historian Helen Glew mentioned that she was thinking of re-reading Blume. Me too, I cried! And our plan was born: the Judy Blume re-read-along. Starting on Monday 23rd June, we will re-read (or in some cases actually read for the first time) each of Blume’s books in publication order, sharing our thoughts on Twitter and our blogs. The schedule is one book per fortnight, thus taking us a year to complete. We even have a spreadsheet!
The challenge will be part fun, part nostalgia but also an exploration – of ourselves as people shaped by our childhood reading choices, the culture we grew up in reading these books and the society that Blume lived in when she wrote them. Blume became known for tackling taboo themes like masturbation and racism as well as entertaining millions of children and young adults, so I’ve no doubt that there will be layers to many of the texts that maybe passed us by the first time but may be more apparent now.
If you’d like to join us in reading one or all of the books, please do get in touch for the dates and details. You can join in the conversation anytime on Twitter using the hashtag #judyblumereadalong.