Author Judy Blume claps back at book bans: ‘What are you protecting your children from?’

Judy Bloom

Author Judy Blume has clapped back at book bans sweeping the US, reaffirming that reading an LGBTQ+ book will not ‘make’ a child LGBTQ+. 

The legendary author – who has 25 works to her name – is best known for her 1970 middle-grade novel  Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, a film adaptation of which is being released next month. 

Blume is no stranger to censorship, with her aforementioned 1970 novel challenged countless times since its publication for its frank discussions around menstruation and religious independence.

In both the 1990s and 2000s, the book was frequently named one of the most banned and challenged in the US by the American Library Association. However, in more recent years the text has faced less censorship. 

Speaking with Variety on Friday (31 March), Blume explained the groups who campaigned see her works pulled from schools and libraries do not compare with the boom in book bans seen today. 

Such bans often focus on texts which include LGBTQ+ stories, themes and characters

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“What are you protecting your children from?” the author said.

“Protecting your children means educating them and arming them with knowledge, and reading and supporting what they want to read. 

“No child is going to become transgender or gay or lesbian because they read a book. It’s not going to happen. They may say, ‘Oh, this is just like me. This is what I’m feeling and thinking about.’

“Or, ‘I’m interested in this because I have friends who may be gay, bi, lesbian.’ They want to know!”

Judy Blume is no stranger to censorship, her books have often been challenged for their themes. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The author added she had recently read Gender Queer, a memoir by Maia Kobabe which recounts Kobabe’s journey to adulthood and exploring their gender identity and sexuality. 

Blume said: “It’s probably the number one. banned book in America right now. And I thought, ‘This young person is telling me how they came to be what they are today.’

“I learned a lot, and became even more empathetic. That’s what books are all about.”

During her interview with Variety, Blume noted the main difference between the pushback she faced and the book bans happens today is that such calls are coming directly from politicians, who are using their power to censor.   

She explained that the “real danger” is politicians who appoint someone to the legislature because they think the same way and thus can pass laws banning books they do not agree with. 

Blume recalled: “It was bad in the 80s, but it wasn’t coming from the government. 

“Today, there are laws being enacted where a librarian can go to prison if she or he is found guilty of having pornography on their shelves. 

“Try and define pornography today and you’ll find that it’s everything.”

Books featuring LGBTQ+ families are ‘important’

The author went on to say that a picture book she is particularly fond of is Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. 

“He’s a little guy, he likes to dress up in fancy clothes, and he has a wonderful grandmother who has all kinds of beads and feathers. She’s supportive of him,” Blume said.

“If you go back to the 80s, it was Heather Has Two Mommies [by Lesléa Newman]. That picture book was banned everywhere.

“Well, there are a lot of kids who have two mommies or two daddies, and that book is important! Today, they’re considered pornographic by some legislatures.”