For decades, iconic YA author Judy Blume has battled backlash against her candid coming-of-age stories — but, ironically enough, more than a few critics have inadvertently revealed to her their own sexual misgivings.
Blume sat down with Chelsea Handler on Tuesday at the 2020 MAKERS Conference, where the famously frank author discussed the pushback she received in response to books like "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," "Forever..." and "Just As Long As We're Together."
"I got so many angry letters from women that said, 'How dare you let her have an orgasm? How dare you? I've been married 30 years and I've never had one!'" Blume recalled. "And I'm like, well, I don't know! I always did!"
Despite the persistent and often highly-emotional outbursts from critics, Blume forged on with her work. "I wanted to show sexuality with responsibility," she said. And damn, I wanted girls to have a good time! I was a girl!"
Blume's breakout 1970 novel, which centered on a preteen girl named Margaret, explored then- (and sometimes still) taboo topics like menstruation and interfaith marriages. Much of the character is drawn from Blume's own childhood experiences, including the sometimes mixed messaging she'd hear about sex.
"Nobody ever told me that sex was bad," Blume, who turns 82 this week, said. Rather, "I knew I had to 'be a good girl, Judy, be a good girl, Judy.'"
"What did being a good girl mean to you at the time?" Handler asked.
"It meant, in those days, don't get pregnant. Don't have sex. That could ruin your life," Blume replied. "Which it did, for a bunch of girls, very good students, in my high school class. That's how it was."
"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" celebrates its 50th birthday this year. With Blume's blessing, the classic novel is currently being adapted into a feature film.