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At 80, Judy Blume Reflects On Feminism, #MeToo And Keeping Margaret 12

Author Judy Blume speaks about her book, <em>In the Unlikely Event</em>, in 2015.
Kathy Willens
Author Judy Blume speaks about her book, In the Unlikely Event, in 2015.

When author Judy Blume first broached topics like puberty and adolescent sexuality in her writing, it was long before those questions could be asked in a quick Google search.

Yet for those who read her now, her tales of adolescence remain modern – so much so that many of her young readers are surprised to learn Blume's books aren't brand new.

"They don't know that I wrote them generations ago. They think I wrote them yesterday for them, for the most part," Blume, who turns 80 on Monday, tells NPR's Rachel Martin.

Blume's novels — from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Deenie to Forever and Summer Sisters — have shaped the way we talk about puberty, periods and female sexual experiences. Those story lines take on renewed relevance amid a national conversation around sexual misconduct. Blume, who donned a pink hat at last year's Women's March, says she is an active feminist — though she sees a generational shift in some of the conversations around #MeToo.

"That doesn't mean that women of my generation can't support the #MeToo movement," Blume says. "Where we may differ is, 'Is it OK to enjoy the art of someone who we now know may have been abusive to women?' To me, the answer is yes, I can. And I don't want museums to take away art because we now know that that artist from a different era may have been abusive to women."

And Woody Allen movies? Martin asks. "Where I stand right now, I will continue to see Woody Allen movies because I'm very interested in Woody Allen the filmmaker."

Interview Highlights

On anticipating the longevity of her writing

I remember when I was newly writing and people were interested in my work. Someone once said to me, "Yes, but will kids read these books in 20 years?" And to me at the time that was like such a joke – 20 years? Are you kidding me? Who cares? Let them read them and enjoy them now.

On watching her characters grow up

I don't want to rewrite anything. My characters are who they are. For years, people have written and asked me to let Margaret go through menopause. And it's like, "Hey guys! Margaret is 12 and she is going to stay 12. That's who she is." No, I don't want to rewrite any of them.

On shelving writing, for now

I get up every day now and I say, "Thank you, thank you! I don't have to write today." I can go to my bookstore. Writing is hard and intense. The last novel, In the Unlikely Event, took me five years research and writing. Now that I'm 80 I don't want to lock myself up for another five years.

Chloee Weineris an intern atMorning Edition.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.