This week, we both re-read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. And then we IMed about it, so you could be included in the conversation. Here's what we think.
8:03 PM Maria: overall, what did you think reading it again?
8:04 PM Sharon: I was completely prepared to think it was very immature and dated. I thought I'd be rolling my eyes a lot and going, "Thank GAWD I don't have those issues anymore."
And it wasn't! I really felt like it was still relevant.
8:05 PM Maria: Now that you say that, I felt that way, too. It didn't feel dated at all.
Sharon: Except for the whole maxi pad belt thing.
8:06 PM Maria: Well, I had a newer version of the book in which that part had been rewritten to just be maxipads. And it worked.
Sharon: I remember that scared the shit out of me before I got my period. I was like, NO. WAY. I am NOT strapping myself into something like that. Huh. I didn't realize they'd rewritten that.
8:07 PM My copy is from ... 1970. Ha.
Maria: I was always afraid that if I went swimming, my period would follow my suit like a bright red line.
Sharon: I'm still wigged out when I go swimming that my tampon string will float out behind me.
8:08 PM too much information?
Maria: No, not at all.
8:09 PM I cannot believe how prominent the period stuff became in my memory, and how minimal religion became.
Sharon: Me too! I completely forgot about the religious part.
Maria: I didn't remember that she didn't get her period until the VERY end of the book. I thought it was all periods and bras. AND I thought I remembered that she kissed Moose.
8:10 PM Sharon: I vividly remembered that Nancy Wheeler lied about getting her period. But I did NOT remember the part where her maternal grandparents disowned her mother for marrying a Jewish man. That is the part that really struck me this time.
Maria: Yes. There was a lot more going on than I remember. How much do you think Blume influenced your view of women?
8:12 PM Sharon: Thinking back, a lot more than I gave her credit for. I really sympathized with Margaret's character, but I also really liked her mom, who was this artistic, free spirit who married for love and went her own way.
8:13 PM Plus, she was one of the first female authors I read, so it was awesome to think, "hey, I could write, too."
8:14 PM Maria: I definitely read her enough to feel legitimized as a girl. I think she greatly contributed to me thinking feminism was the normal viewpoint, since so many of my ideas were formulated by reading her books repeatedly. But I never thought about how she impacted me as a writer.
8:15 PM She probably did, but I think she did more to normalize sexuality for me than anything else.
Sharon: I'd never thought about how she impacted me as a feminist, so we're even. :)
Maria: Perfect! I wish she had written something about homosexuality.
8:16 PM I'm actually surprised she hasn't (as far as I know).
Sharon: Yeah, right? We should look into that.
Maria: If she hadn't, that would be a good series of books for young girls. And we'd probably be just as banned as she was.
8:18 PM Sharon: Sidenote: when I worked at Simon and Schuster, they published a kids book about a gay duckling, and how he was different from all his other siblings and his mallard father was so mean to him for it. At the end, everyone realized that it was okay to be gay, but ... It was simultaneously empowering and refreshing and the most horrible children's book ever. The things they had the dad do to this duckling were so mean! (end sidenote)
Sharon: I am trying to remember the name of it. We all got free copies of it. I gave it to my niece for Xmas one year and she was bawling.
Maria: Oh no. :)
Sharon: My sister was like, "uhhhh ... tolerance, yay, this is awesome. But maybe not when she's 5."
8:20 PM Maria: Hahaha. You know what I also thought about while I was reading "Margaret"?
The book was banned because Margaret didn't accept a religion, NOT because of the sexuality I assumed the banning was about.
8:21 PM Maria: I think so.
Maria: I mean, religion was so rampant, and really, the periods, the bras, the boys were the backdrop for her finding her religion. And she didn't. I'm sure the religious right went crazy with that--especially because Blume is Jewish.
8:22 PM Sharon: Well, and the backlash to the feminist movement probably had some influence too. "Look!! Feminism turns regular girls into godless heathens who aren't ashamed of their bodies!!!"
8:25 PM Sharon: I have one more comment on the religion front -- I guess this is really the central tenet of the book. Why did she even NEED a religion? She has a personal relationship with God that works for her.
Maria: True! That's how the book should have ended!