Role Models & Heroes: Judy Bloom (2016)

By June 10, 2016 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Heroes & Role Models

The following essay on Judy Bloom was written by Camila Grunberg, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; an example of this last component can be seen below. The process  improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.

Camila Grunberg

June 25, 2016

When the time to pick a role model came my way I decided that I wanted to select someone who shared similar values with me. Naturally, I had several people who I admired, but none who truly felt like the ideal role model. After some searching, I came across Judy Blume, a world-renowned American author who has written novels for young children as well as adolescents and occasionally adults. Before I knew I would end up selecting her as my role model I had read some of her books both for school or for pleasure. I always admired her work, and felt that she was very honest. She created a nonjudgmental environment in which children could think about their feelings while growing up. Her novels address topics that children face in their lives such as bullying, parents getting divorced, and growing up. While writing her books she not only takes into account her personal life experiences but also those of her children.

In my opinion, a hero is someone who is recognized for being courageous and/or doing something outstanding in some way. A role model is someone whom you respect and want to be like. Judy Blume has had outstanding achievements throughout her life that have paved the way not only for a successful career, but also facilitated the development of her readers. Through her writing Judy Blume has influenced many children’s lives, including my own, which is why I admire her as both a role model and a hero.

Judy Blume was born on February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, NJ. She was raised in New Jersey as well. She first got married in 1959 to John Blume from whom she got divorced in 1976. Together they had two children: Randy Lee, an airplane pilot (born in 1961) and Lawrence Andrew, a filmmaker (born in 1963). She then got married to Thomas Kitchens in 1976, and later divorced him in 1978. Judy Blume is currently married to George Cooper whom she married in 1987.

In 1961, Judy received a B.A. in education from New York University. This university named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996, which was the same year that she was given the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. Some of her other recognitions have included the Library of Congress Living Legends Award and the 2004 National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Ms. Blume is also the founder and trustee of The KIDS Fund, a charitable and educational foundation formed in 1981 to encourage communication between children and their parents.

The KIDS Fund was financed with the royalties of her publication, “Judy Blume Diary,” an activity book created for aspiring writers where they can find inspiration in various quotes and photographs, as well as guidance on how to get organized. She created the “Judy Blume Diary” specifically to finance The KIDS Fund.

She serves on the boards of the Author’s Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Judy Blume works hard against censorship because some of her books have been censored for being “inappropriate” in the eyes of some adults. Five of her books were censored at some point: Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Deenie, Forever, and Tiger Eyes. Out of the five books above I have read two of them: Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and Deenie. In an interview with Alison Flood, published by The Guardian in July 2014, Judy Blume said, “My feeling in the beginning was wait, this is America: we don’t have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write, freedom of the press, we don’t do this, we don’t ban books. But then they did.”

Over the years, more than 85 million copies of her books have been sold. Her work has also been translated into thirty-two languages. Each year she receives thousands of letters from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her.

In 1986 Judy Blume published a book entitled “Letters to Judy: What Kids Wish They Could Tell You.” It is not a novel but rather a compilation of letters written to her by children ten years and older, along with her responses. Some of these children felt rejected by their peers, by family members at home, or were hurt by life experiences. Judy Blume intended this book to help parents become more aware of their children’s needs. All the royalties she receives from the sale of this book are used to finance The KIDS Fund.

Judy Blume still keeps in touch with her readers through a blog she manages on her website, and also communicates through her twitter account.

While growing up, Ms. Blume was closer to her father, Rudolph Sussman, than to her mother, Esther (Rosenfeld) Sussman. Rudolph was a dentist and Esther, a homemaker. Judy realized that sometimes people would go to her father’s office simply to talk about their problems. This may have been how she first started to realize how important sharing your problems with someone else could be. Esther would read books to her daughter as she grew up. Judy very much enjoyed going to the library to read adult novels as well as children’s books during her childhood. She was also the coeditor of her high school’s newspaper. I find it interesting how literature was an important part of her childhood as well as her adulthood.

I have read three of her books, all of which I enjoyed very much: “Deenie,” “Superfudge,” and most recently “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” In this book Judy Blume used a combination of her life experiences along with her imagination. The story is about Margaret Anne Simon, a sixth grade girl who just moved from New York City to New Jersey. She is required to begin at a new school, where she has to make new acquaintances. Margaret struggles with the fact that her mother is Jewish and her father is Christian. Both of her parents allow her to make her own decisions about her religious beliefs, unlike her grandparents who believe that she belongs to their religion. Judy Blume herself grew up in a culturally Jewish household. Both her parents were Jewish.

I identify with some of the values I see in the way Judy Blume handled her career and personal life, such as:

Honesty: Judy Blume communicates what she truly believes even if it is not what others necessarily want to hear. For example, in the past she has written about adolescence, family dynamics, bullying, and racism. When criticized about her work, instead of changing the content of her writings to please her critics, Judy Blume continued writing with honesty.

Strength: Judy Blume faced hardship in her personal life such as being told early in her career that she would never be a good author, her first two marriages did not go well and she had breast cancer. Fortunately, Judy Blume had the strength to overcome such challenges and continues to pursue her dreams.

Perseverance: Judy Blume published her first novel in 1969. For the past forty- five years, she has had a very productive career despite the challenges she faced along the way.

Courage: Judy Blume had the courage to publicly address topics that were taboos at the time and continued writing even while some of her books were censored.

Open-mindedness: Judy Blume has addressed a wide range of controversial topics and has handled them all responsibly.

Family: The books Judy Blume published as well as her charitable work promote the well-being of children and their families.

This is an overview of Judy Blume’s life long accomplishments that make her such a unique role model and hero for so many people, and of how her values intertwine with my own.