Judy Blume, the beloved children’s author, was trending on Twitter Tuesday as fans discussed her 1975 coming-of-age novel Forever… amid GOP-led efforts in state legislatures to ban certain books from school libraries.
Schools and school districts have emerged as a new political frontier for state Republican parties in recent years. From Covid-related health mandates to transgender bathroom policies, GOP politicians are increasingly focused on local education policy as part of their electoral strategy in a post-Trump political landscape.
School libraries became a battlefield in that war last October, when lawmakers in Texas took aim at 850 books that they said might “make students feel … psychological distress” due to their depictions of race, gender and sexuality.
Literary censorship was back in the news last week after a Tennessee school board unanimously voted to ban Maus, a Pulitzer-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, ostensibly because it contains swear words.
Before the Maus discourse had even ended, a Missouri school board banned Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye days later.
Some social media users were troubled by the flood of book bans. On Tuesday, they were reminded of Judy Blume’s infamous young adult novel.
Forever… tells the story of a high school girl’s first experience with love and loss. While it doesn’t appear on the Texas list and doesn’t seem to have been recently banned anywhere in America, the book has long been censored in school districts across the country for decades over its frank and often graphic depiction of sex.
Judy Blume Trends as Fans Remember Forever
On Twitter Tuesday night, some users recalled how their schools tried to ban Blume’s work.
“When I was in 8th grade, the parents got together and tried to ban a certain Judy Blume book from being read, especially by the girls,” wrote one user.
“Anyone wanna guess how that ended? It was literally the book we all read and passed around, like contraband. Sometimes, kids, adults are big dummies.”
One Twitter user responded: “I discovered Judy Blume when I was in second or third grade and devoured her books. When I was in seventh grade, my mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to read Forever. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d already read it.”
“In 7th grade I was forbidden to read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume,” tweeted another user.
“Three days later I had already read it for the first time. Banned books will pique interest. Do not underestimate the younger generation, those kids are alright.”
“In the ‘80s, everyone was just passing around one tattered copy of Flowers in the Attic [by V.C. Andrews] and Forever… by Judy Blume,” joked Imani Gandy, an editor at the Rewire News Group.
The award-winning author doesn’t appear to have responded to Twitter’s outpouring of love on her personal account. Still, with more than 50 years in print and 25 novels to her name, Blume is well aware that her writing draws the ire of conservatives and censors.
She spoke on the subject during a wide-ranging 2015 interview at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.
“In the beginning it was hurtful,” she said of attempts to ban her books. “Now, I just,” she trailed off, raising a middle finger to the delighted crowd.
“No, I really […] I take it seriously,” Blume continued. “If I get a thoughtful letter, about why a parent doesn’t want a child to read my book, I will respond to it.”
“But I won’t respond to ‘burn in hell.’”