Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell

If you were a girl growing up in the 1980's, chances are you read Judy Blume's books. And if you read Judy Blume's books, chances are even better that you still remember one or more of them better than many books that you have read subsequently. Who doesn't remember Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? And of course, everyone passed Forever around to read the juicy bits. I personally identified with Iggie's House although I was always the kid moving, not the one left behind to befriend the new family in the house. I still have my original Judy Blume books and have passed them along to my older children (and it's about time to pass the less girlish ones along to the small boy as well). And really, the way that these books captured a generation is unique and the very thing that this collection edited by Jennifer O'Connell celebrates.

This is a collection of essays written by current YA and chick lit writers is nostalgic and familiar. Their essays on the work or works that meant the most to them as they developed as girls and young women could have been written by your best girlfriends. As Blume's books are pretty universal, so are the essays in this book. The authors have chosen a wide range of the Blume canon about which to write. The ways in which these stories have impacted their lives, the extent to which they remember the stories, and the breadth of the debt some of their own writing owes to the stories varies but it's likely that you'll find yourself nodding your head in agreement with most, if not all, of them. It is amazing how this shared cultural experience still forms us so many years later. This is very much a love letter and a thank you note to Ms. Blume and I admit that I read it with a huge smile on my face. I might be an adult now, but just reading about others' Blume experiences as preteens and teens had the power to take me back to that more innocent time in my life. And we can all use a little more innocence these days.

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