Books + Comics

So Many Kinds of Longing: An Interview With Judy Blume

She’s still helping us grow up.

Ooh, I can’t wait to read it! When I was in high school, your books inspired me to ask for a banned-books elective course at my school. I’m proud to say that they ended up having the class. I remember Kurt Vonnegut was one of the authors on the list.

Kurt Vonnegut was like a cult figure. Kids love his books. I always say that censors don’t come near you unless they know kids like your books. They’re not sitting there reading all of the books. They are waiting until they find out if kids like it first.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian [by Sherman Alexie] is a book that the NCAC has to defend all of the time these days. Kids like it, and it is fascinating. We don’t have a lot of books about a kid who grows up poor on a reservation and gets beaten up at another school and then makes it. It’s a great story. I don’t remember if there’s any sex in it.

I remember reading it in my Native American history class. At the Tiger Eyes screening I enjoyed hearing about how important it was to you and your son to honor the local Pueblo community in Santa Fe, where the movie is set. How did the community respond?

We worked so hard on that. Larry was talking to the local community long before the movie was shot. It won an award at the American Indian Film Festival. [The actor] Tatanka Means won a prize [there] too.

You really tap into the heart of what teenage longing is and how it feels. I know you get a lot of letters from teenagers—what kinds of desires do they express to you?

There are so many kinds of longing. The longing to fit in, the longing to figure it out, the emotional longing for friendship and being accepted—these are all as important as physical longing. Before all the hormones start raging, it’s the emotional longing that is most important, and boy, you have to learn to figure it out. In my day, the rules were there for us. Back then there was no abortion and no pill, and my friends and I knew that what we called “going all the way” could ruin our lives. It is not that we didn’t have physical sexual longing, but we went out with guys who understood that there were ways to satisfy—and it wasn’t oral sex. We kind of could be satisfied through touching; we could be physically satisfied with what we called petting. I went out with a lot of guys, and there was an understanding. I was never pushed to go all the way.

I think today’s kids miss out on being sexual without having intercourse. There are a lot of sexual expectations today. Everyone is watching porn now. It turns you on, sure. I’m not saying don’t watch it. But what you see in porn is not what real love and sexuality within a long-term relationship are. Just like kids have to learn that the toy they see on TV is different from different from what it does in real life, I’d like to see the same thing taught about sex. I hate to see girls feeling like they have to emulate what they see in porn, with breast implants and pole dancing. I am actually glad that Amanda Bynes had her implants removed. This was a good development. What would I do if I was 16 now?

Did you raise your son as a feminist? I imagine so, having seen the strong, complex female characters in his adaptation of Tiger Eyes.

It came late. He likes women and respects women. He’s not married at 50. He has seen his two parents grow happily. He’s seen that long-term relationships can be satisfying and very happy. It is his life. I don’t sit around discussing it with him anymore. I know that his girlfriends usually stay friendly with him after they’ve broken up, and he says it is because he’s always honest with them.

Have you seen Friday Night Lights? I’m addicted to that show! I think Tami Taylor and Coach Taylor are pretty good models as parents. I’d like to have been more like them than I was, but of course it was a different time. Their daughter was a rambunctious kid. She’s out there. I think their marriage is just wonderful. The love comes through.

I really appreciated how they handled the subject of abortion in an honest and open way. Did you see that episode or read [former Planned Parenthood president] Gloria Feldt’s op-ed about it?

I haven’t seen that episode yet. Tell me about it! Who had an abortion?

I don’t want to ruin it for you!

Tell me! Don’t worry about spoilers! [Laughter]

OK, it is Becky’s abortion story. I used to work at Planned Parenthood, so I was really happy to see their honest treatment of this storyline.

What did you do for Planned Parenthood? Where did you work?

I was their national youth outreach manager, working out of Washington, DC.

I’m a big supporter of Planned Parenthood. I’ve written a fundraising letters for them. Planned Parenthood is there for women, and it is an amazing and necessary organization. Gloria Feldt and Cecile Richards are wonderful role models!

I just reread Summer Sisters, and my perspective on the story has changed since I’ve gotten older. I connected with the book in a deeper way as an adult, now that I’ve gone through some similar shifts in my own life, like epic friend breakups and reconciliations. That is why I love your books. They are timeless and they grow with you. When I revisit them with fresh eyes, I always learn something new about myself.

We all bring our own experiences to books, plays, and movies. Once you have an experience like losing a best friend you know what it is like. Have you seen the movie Frances Ha? There’s so much in there about best friends. Even though they are going their separate ways, they’ll always have that time.

Jamia, George [her husband] just let me know it is time for us to get ready for a show we’re going to tonight.

Before you go, can you tell our readers how they can see Tiger Eyes?

You can watch it on iTunes, and on any cable company except Cablevision (and we need a campaign to get it on there). Thank you! Let’s keep in touch!

Thank you so much, Judy!

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26 Comments

  • KatGirl July 8th, 2013 3:04 PM

    Love this! :)

  • KatGirl July 8th, 2013 3:08 PM

    I love how honest Judy Blume is in her writing; as a young girl starting to have crushes/beginnings of sexual feelings I loved hearing that there were actually other people who were OK with exploring their own bodies. :)

  • FlowerandtheVine July 8th, 2013 3:19 PM

    I can’t wait to see Tiger Eyes. That was always my favorite Judy Blume book, followed closely by Summer Sisters, Forever, and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great! I still have all of my Judy books.

    http://flowerandthevine.wordpress.com

  • Abby July 8th, 2013 3:25 PM

    JUDY BLUUUUMMMEEE YESSSS. You GUYS. I have been waiting for this for my while life.

  • Mayabett July 8th, 2013 3:38 PM

    One of my biggest pre-adolescent regrets now is that I didn’t really read Judy Blume. I probably read one book, but not one of the ones mentioned here. Wow do I wish I had!

    On another note, Frances Ha was an awesome movie and I’m super glad it got a shout out here.

    • Scaramoosh July 8th, 2013 4:26 PM

      Totally agree. I only read a few because I treated reading like a ‘treat to do when everything’s done’ but everything is NEVER done!

      I started a book club to put in some accountability and it’s got me reading a few extra books a month now. Love that Jamia said she gets something different each time she reads them because of the different life experiences to bring back to the story. I’m thinking of suggesting some Judy Blume at our next meeting!

      http://www.the10principles.com/

  • ninesbadwolf July 8th, 2013 3:43 PM

    Judy Blume is wonderful. I read “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” in fourth grade after I got the “the talk” and it changed my life.

  • Monq July 8th, 2013 4:03 PM

    I must admit I never read, Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” or “Deenie” when I was a kid. And I always feel like I’m missing out something great. Maybe I will make up for lost time and read it this summer. Though when I was a kid I did read,”Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”and “Freckle Juice” and quite a few of her other books as well. I always loved her writing. Nice interview, Rookie!

    xoox

  • whiskeytangofoxtrot July 8th, 2013 4:05 PM

    Judy Blume! This made my day! And how envious am I that I don’t get to interview Ms. Blume?

  • Scaramoosh July 8th, 2013 4:41 PM

    I love that Judy Blume’s books are about helping people feel not so alone.

    As she states about her book Dennie (I haven’t read it yet!):

    “We were reassured that we weren’t the only ones. We never talked to adults about it. None of us. We weren’t sure it was OK. It was kept a secret from everyone. ”

    When you start to realize that if you’re doing something – chances are other people are doing it too, then you are really starting to put some pieces together that help you understand life, believe in yourself and seek help when you need it.

    http://www.the10principles.com/

  • actressgirl July 8th, 2013 6:28 PM

    I was kind of hoping you would ask her if Sheila and Peter ever got together.

    • Aurora July 8th, 2013 8:49 PM

      Freaking YES I loved “Tales of a fourth-grade nothing” and the rest of that series. SheilaXPeter is my OTP for life.

  • carofine July 8th, 2013 6:39 PM

    No way! I was at the DC screening of Tiger Eyes too! I work at that movie theater! I was probably standing behind you in the book signing line, Jamia because I remember the girl in front of me was talking to Judy about interviewing her. My Rookie life and real life are colliding.

    But really, Tiger Eyes is a great movie and everyone should see it. I loved it.

    • Jamia July 10th, 2013 8:45 AM

      My fiance and I remember you! We felt bad for talking to her so long when you were waiting in line to have your book signed. :) I LOVE that movie theatre. I wish I’d known about it when I lived in DC.
      xoxo

  • Sophie ❤ July 8th, 2013 6:43 PM

    Rookie: you just made my day! Judy Blume is one of my all time favorites, ever! [almost as much as Emma Watson]

    http://plainlysophie.com

  • myy July 8th, 2013 7:00 PM

    My sixth grade english teacher gave me all of Blume’s books as a gift . . . probably one of the best gifts I ever received! Lovely interview, Judy Blume is amazing!

    http://CactusFlowerBlog.blogspot.com/

  • Sorcha M July 8th, 2013 7:25 PM

    She seems like a really intelligent and sensitive woman. I like her. And I really want to see Tiger Eyes.

  • queserasera July 8th, 2013 10:44 PM

    blume’s answers are so thoughtful! i adored the fudge book series

    http://televiseddinner.blogspot.com/

  • Emilyis July 8th, 2013 11:10 PM

    Holy Crap <3 Judy Blume.

  • jessica j July 9th, 2013 1:25 AM

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MeBeKi July 9th, 2013 2:39 AM

    Judy Blume is all that was and all that ever will be <3

    http://theoriesabound.wordpress.com/

  • wallflower152 July 9th, 2013 10:07 AM

    I read Margaret when I was 10 or 11 and it confused me, talking about the belt and stuff that you had to wear with a pad in those days. Also, I didn’t understand why these girls were excited about getting their periods. I was dreading mine haha. Good book nonetheless. You know a book makes an impact on you when you remember specific scenes over a decade later. I don’t think I read any of her other books though.

  • Ella W July 9th, 2013 5:04 PM

    I really need to get into Judy Blume books again! I read a few when I was around 8 or 9, but they were more of her kiddie series, like the Fudge series.
    I did read ‘Forever’ when I got a bit older, but this article makes me want to read some of her other books!
    Yet more books to add to my summer reading list!
    Ella x

    http://gorillalegs.blogspot.co.uk/

  • lauraunicorns July 9th, 2013 11:29 PM

    I love how she helped those girls who were fighting against the book ban! Perks is such a good book and it would be a shame to see it removed just cause a couple people had complaints about how it was “inappropriate.” Junior high kids are a lot more aware of things than people think. And I loved Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing too! My fourth grade teacher read it aloud to the class.

    http://lauraunicorns.tumblr.com

  • loonylizzy July 12th, 2013 8:27 PM

    JUDY BLUUUME!!! i have read “are you there god, it’s me margaret” religiously every year since i was 11. one of my favorite authors ever! thanks so much rookie!!!