There are two ways of reading the title of this warm, lively documentary. Judy Blume is forever—considering she wrote her epoch-making Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. in 1970 and sixth grader Margaret’s worries about boys, bras, religion and menstruation are still current. There is a movie coming out this year based on the book directed by Kelly Fremon Craig with Rachel McAdams as Margaret’s mother, Barbara, and Kathy Bates as her grandmother, Sylvia.
Anyone who has read Blume also knows that Forever is the name of her 1975 novel, which caused all sorts of storms for being the first to normalise teenage sex. In the documentary, Blume says she wrote the book when her 13-year-old daughter, Randy, said she wanted to read a book where teenagers have sex and do not die afterwards!
Judy Blume Forever
The documentary starts with Blume reading from her “masturbation” novel, Deenie. The gym teacher, Mrs. Rappaport says, “It’s not a word you should be afraid of. Let’s all say it Masturbation.” Blume is quite the sprightly 85-year-old, cycling to her non-profit bookshop, Books & Books, which she runs with her husband, George Cooper, in Key West. The film goes back in time to Blume’s student days in the all-girls’ Battin High School when she says she was an anxious child growing up listening to the atrocities the Nazis committed on Jews.
Her marriage to lawyer John M. Blume in 1959 weeks after her father’s death had a devastating effect on her. After the birth of her children, Blume became a homemaker, writing when her children went to nursery school. This part of the documentary looks straight out of Mad Men and you almost expect Don Draper to be skulking around somewhere. After two years of rejection slips, Blume published The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, in 1969 and the rest is history.
Blume comes across in the archival interviews as well as the new ones as honest and warm and someone you would love to hang out with, quite like Margaret’s grandmother. Apart from interviews with Blume, her husband and children, Judy Blume Forever features interviews with authors Mary H.K. Choi, Jacqueline Woodson, and Tayari Jones, actors Molly Ringwald, Lena Dunham and Anna Konkle, comedian Samantha Bee and Justin Chanda, Senior Vice President, Publisher Children’s Trade Imprints, Simon & Schuster.
Blume corresponded with some of her fans over the years which became the basis of Letter to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You (1986) and the documentary features interviews with two of them. Blume taking on Pat Buchanan on the matter of censorship shows her strength and grace.
She reveals her playful sides when she says the four-letter word that rhymes with duck is “a meaningless word intensifier” according to the dictionary. There is honesty and awe in Blume’s joy at finding love in her marriage to Cooper. The shots of the couple laughing over Polaroid pictures are heart-warming.
Author Jason Reynolds says it best, with “Judy did not write her books to be timeless. She wrote them to be timely and they were so timely that they are timeless.”
Judy Blume Forever is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video