Beyond Judy Blume: We've Come a Long Way, Baby

Ashley McAllister
View profile »

Beyond Judy Blume logo

Thanks to a generous grant from the fine people at Oregon Humanities, we'll be spending the next few months exploring identity and sexuality in young adult literature here on the Bitch blogs. This series is part of an interactive program called "Beyond Judy Blume: Identity and Sexuality in Young Adult Literature" that will take a look at how gender and sexual identity are portrayed in today's young adult lit, how YA lit reflects changing cultural views on youth identity and expression, and how YA lit can be used as a tool to promote diversity and social change. This blog series will coincide with three monthly book clubs here in Portland, Oregon, leading up to a community forum featuring a panel of YA lit experts and enthusiasts in Portland on November 8th...more about those on our events page.

Let's start by talking a little bit about Judy Blume. We here at Bitch are big fans of Blume's work. We've run a couple feature articles on the queen of young adult fiction (see: "Judged Judy: Judy Blume's 40-year fight to tell the truth about sex, religion, and turtles." in the Old Issue and further discussion in "Ya? Why not?—It's a new golden age of young-adult fiction. Five contemporary authors tell us why." in the Loud Issue). Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was the first book most of us ever read that mentioned menstruation, and I'd be lying if I said we didn't have a copy of Blubber sitting in the office bathroom right now. We love what Judy Blume stands for: boundary-pushing, freedom of expression, and a good sense of humor.

Judy Blume is known for writing about topics like teen sex, masturbation, and menstruation before it was cool to do so, and she's often credited with redefining young adult literature as we (or our parents) knew it. Fast forward to 2012, and we're in the middle of a young adult lit heyday. YA lit sales are way up and publishers and book stores are catching on. As the book business continues to invest more money into bringing YA lit to the masses, we're seeing more and more books that are pushing the boundaries of YA lit in really exciting ways, exploring issues of teen identity and sexuality while remaining honest and challenging. During this series, we'll talk with authors, teachers, librarians, and teens who are dedicated to making sure that every teen is able to find books whose characters they can relate to and be inspired by.

We've come a long way since Forever was first published in 1975, but we've also got a long way left to go. We're looking forward to discussing the current state of identity and sexuality in YA lit with authors, teachers, librarians, and youth during this blog series. We hope you'll join the conversation—please let us know if there's anything you'd like us to cover!


Oregon Humanities logoThis program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Still Reading? Sign up for our Weekly Reader!

11 Comments Have Been Posted

YES. This sounds awesome!

YES. This sounds awesome! Very much looking forward to reading the series :)

Team Tessa

The new book "Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom" by Halpin & Franklin should get a (loud) shout-out, I hope.

What a great research

What a great research project! I hope you will include some of the work of Tamora Pierce in your sample!

So glad you got funding for

So glad you got funding for this! I'm a huge YA fan - and go through months of exclusively reading only it.
I'd love to see your take on Veronica Roth's "Divergent" and "Insurgence" books ... and maybe the "Maze Runner" series by James Dashner.


Great news!

Kristin Cashore's _Graceling_

Kristin Cashore's _Graceling_ trilogy, please. Fantasy settings with magic and horses and swords, and FAR from a gender utopia ... but no hangups about female chastity ... and wonderfully complex considerations of the ethics of sexual expression.

How about the somewhat older

How about the somewhat older The Last Herald Mage series by Mercedes Lackey in the 90s? Or the more modern Whisper or Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis, which both deal a lot with identity and sexuality.

Don't overlook the importance

Don't overlook the importance of the ALICE SERIES, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. SPOT ON book series that follows Alice until she is 30!

This is so cool! I would love

This is so cool! I would love to know if you find anything dealing with sex work--teenagers with sex worker parents, or engaging in sex work themselves? Looking forward to this series!

This sounds like it's going

This sounds like it's going to be amazing. Judy Bloom books were popular with girls my age in the late 90s.

Add new comment