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Judy Blume (born Judith Sussman; February 12, 1938) is an American writer known for children's and young adult (YA) fiction. Some of her best known works are Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970), Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972), Deenie (1973), and Blubber (1974). The New Yorker has called her books "talismans that, for a significant segment of the American female population, marked the passage from childhood to adolescence."
Publishing her first novel in 1969, Blume is credited as one of the first authors to write YA novels about topics that some still consider to be taboo. According to Blume, "I wanted to be honest. And I felt that no adult had been honest with me. We didn't have the information we should have had." Blume has received praise for addressing the common, but often unspoken worries of her fans from masturbation and menstruation to teen sex, birth control, and death. This has also led to criticism from individuals and groups that would like to see her books banned. The American Library Association (ALA) has named Blume as one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century.
Despite her critics, Blume's books have sold over 82 million copies and they've been translated into 32 languages. She has won a number of awards for her writing, including ALA's Margaret A. Edwards Award for her contributions to young adult literature. She was recognized as a Library of Congress Living Legend and she was awarded the 2004 National Book Foundation medal for distinguished contribution to American letters.
Blume was born on February 12, 1938, and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the daughter of homemaker Esther (née Rosenfeld) and dentist Rudolph Sussman. She has a brother, David, who is five years older. Her family was Jewish. Blume has recalled, "I spent most of my childhood making up stories inside of my head." She graduated from Battin High School in 1956, then enrolled in Boston University. In the first semester, she was diagnosed with mononucleosis and took a brief leave from school before graduating from New York University in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in Education. In 1951 and 1952, there were three airplane crashes in her hometown of Elizabeth. 118 people died in the crashes, and Blume’s father, who was a dentist, helped to identify the unrecognizable remains. Blume says she "buried" these memories until she began writing her 2015 novel In the Unlikely Event, the plot of which revolves around the crashes.
A lifelong avid reader, Blume first began writing when her children were attending preschool, and she was living in the New Jersey communities of Plainfield and Scotch Plains. She published her first book, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, in 1969. The decade that followed proved to be her most prolific, with 13 more books being published, including many of her most well-known titles, such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (1970), Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972), Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (1972), and Blubber (1974).
After publishing novels for young children and teens, Blume tackled another genre—adult reality and death. Her novels Wifey (1978) and Smart Women (1983) reached the top of The New York Times Best Seller list. Wifey became a bestseller with over 4 million copies sold. Blume's third adult novel, Summer Sisters (1998), was widely praised and sold more than three million copies. It spent 5 months on The New York Times Bestseller list, with the hardcover reaching #3 and the paperback spent several weeks at #1. Several of Blume's books appear on the list of top all-time bestselling children's books.
Blume's books have sold over 82 million copies and they've been translated into 32 languages. Judy Blume has won more than 90 literary awards, including three lifetime achievement awards in the US. The ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Blume won the annual award in 1996 citing the single book Forever, published in 1975. According to the citation, "She broke new ground in her frank portrayal of Michael and Katherine, high school seniors who are in love for the first time. Their love and sexuality are described in an open, realistic manner and with great compassion." In April 2000 the Library of Congress named her to its Living Legends in the Writers and Artists category for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage. In 2004 she received the annual Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Medal of the National Book Foundation as someone who "has enriched [American] literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work."
The film version of Blume's 1981 novel Tiger Eyes was directed by the author's son, Lawrence Blume. Released in 2012, it stars Willa Holland as Davey and Amy Jo Johnson as Gwen Wexler.
Throughout Blume's career, she has also made efforts to advocate for organizations that support intellectual freedom. "Finding herself at the center of an organized book banning campaign in the 1980's she began to reach out to other writers, as well as teachers and librarians, who were under fire." This led to Blume joining the National Coalition Against Censorship. All of her efforts go into helping protect the freedom to read. She is also the founder and trustee of a charitable and education foundation, called "The Kids Fund." Blume serves on the board for other organizations such as, "the Author's Guild; the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators; the Key West Literary Seminar; and the National Coalition Against Censorship."
In October 2017, Yale University acquired Blume's archive, which included some unpublished early work.
Marriages and family
On August 15, 1959, in the summer of her senior year of college, she married John M. Blume, whom she had met while a student at New York University. He became a lawyer, while she was a homemaker before supporting her family by teaching and writing. They had two children: Randy, a therapist (born 1961); and Lawrence Andrew, a filmmaker (born 1963). The couple separated in 1975 and were divorced by 1976. Blume later described the marriage as "suffocating", although she maintained her first husband's surname. Blume has stated that Lawrence was the inspiration for the character of "Fudge." Blume has one grandchild from her daughter, Randy - a grandson named Elliot Blume-Pickle. Elliot is credited with encouraging his grandmother to write the most recent "Fudge" books.
Shortly after her separation, she met Thomas A. Kitchens, a physicist. The couple married in 1976, and they moved to New Mexico for Kitchens' work. They divorced in 1978. She later spoke about their split: "It was a disaster, a total disaster. After a couple years, I got out. I cried every day. Anyone who thinks my life is cupcakes is all wrong."
A mutual friend introduced her to George Cooper, a former law professor turned non-fiction writer. Blume and Cooper were married in 1987. Cooper has one daughter, Amanda, from a previous marriage. They reside in Key West.
Blume announced she was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2012 after undergoing a routine ultrasound as she was preparing to leave for a five-week trip to Italy. She stated that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer 17 years earlier, and had a subsequent hysterectomy.
Blume's novels for teenagers tackled racism (Iggie's House), menstruation (Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.), divorce (It's Not the End of the World, Just as Long as We're Together), bullying (Blubber), masturbation (Deenie, Then Again, Maybe I Won't) sexuality (Forever), and family issues (Here's to You, Rachel Robinson). Blume has used these subjects to generate discussion, but they have also been the source of controversy regarding age-appropriate reading.