Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, Tracy

Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, Tracy

Looking back, I must have been about ten when I received my first book about puberty. The book was

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.

In the early 80’s, it was a staple in almost every household across North America with a tween girl living in it…if they were lucky. Whether it was given to said girl by her parent(s) or smuggled into her bedroom via backpack or purse, most pre-pubescent girls in my generation counted on this somewhat controversial book to learn about their body.

Basically, the book is about quirky and awkward Margaret Simon, an almost twelve-year-old on the verge of puberty.

“There's some talk about periods, boys, bras, and bodies -- Margaret grapples with some big questions about growing up, including what religion she should be (if any).”

From what I remember, the book is so not about religion. Yet, on that note, growing up in a quasi-multi-denominational family, where going to church wasn’t a weekly thing, I felt relieved to read about another family similar to mine. 

In the book, Margaret and her family don't go to church. Her parents don't want any religion forced on Margaret. Her father comes from a Jewish background but hasn't found God in religion. Margaret's mother comes from a Christian upbringing, but doesn’t practice.

When I read this book, I found hope in the fact that there was a girl, just like me (even if only a fictional character) that struggled with having spirituality and going through puberty too. Margaret was the idyllic peer that left me feeling normal. Normal meaning; just as confused about adult behavior and customs as pretty much every other kid my age.

The puberty years can be so unbearable. With crazy hormonal imbalances and seemingly freakish body changes, I think most kids just want to glide invisibly through this stage unnoticed or skip right over it entirely.

The problem with my generation of kids back then, and contemporary tweens too is that at this age, we naturally feel an eagerness (hormones) to grow up ahead of when we’re emotionally ready to.

To me, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was about a young girl discovering acceptance in herself and her place in society. Although it had hints about religion, it was much more than that. Margaret is confronted with so many physical and emotional changes in her life, like moving, meeting new friends and dealing with peer and family expectations, yet she copes with these in a brave and honest way.

“My mother's always talking about when I'm a teenager. Stand up straight, Margaret! Good posture now makes for a good figure later. Wash your face with soap, Margaret! Then you won't get pimples when you're a teenager. If you ask me, being a teenager is pretty rotten—between pimples and worrying about how you smell!” Margaret excerpt from the book (4.10)

Tackling her puberty on top of all her other life changes, made her a genuine and relatable pal to this tween. Margaret believed in her own version of a God and sought this person out for wisdom, assurance, and friendship. When I read this book, Margaret became these same things for me. She spoke to me when I needed a guiding and supportive voice at a most critical time in my own life.

Margaret gave me strength to face my own challenges and inspired in me a hope that even the gawkiest of girls could fit in…eventually.

“For the first time since I'd started writing, I let go and this story came pouring out. I felt as if I'd always known Margaret. When I was in sixth grade, I longed to develop physically like my classmates. I tried doing exercises, resorted to stuffing my bra, and lied about getting my period. And like Margaret, I had a very personal relationship with God that had little to do with organized religion. God was my friend and confidant. But Margaret's family is very different from mine, and her story grew from my imagination.

Margaret brought me my first and most loyal readers. I love her for that.”

-Judy Blume

An interesting side note:

For a little nostalgia, I went to Barnes & Noble this week to purchase a copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Thankfully, they had it, but, it was shelved in the Teen Genre section. This shocked me. 

Why? Well for starters, I myself read the book at age ten and that was way back in the seventies! Secondly, let’s face it, the book is intended for a pre-pubescent child because the main character isn’t quite a teen yet herself. Third and most importantly, kids today are going through puberty earlier than previous generations.

So, why on earth would it be in the Teen section then? I know, seems strange, right? My only guess is that because the book was so controversial at the time, it may still be a “banned book” and isn’t available in certain schools and libraries.

Without getting into it all (yet), hold that thought. Because anyone who knows me knows that I think if kids are asking about a certain topic then they should be informed/encouraged to read age-appropriate material about that topic...so, this is to be continued.

Stay tuned for my next post. Maybe it’s just a fluke of poor book organization by the bookstore. Maybe this is a banned book. Either way, I’m going to do a little research and find out exactly why my childhood favorite can only be found in the Teen section of the bookstore instead of with the more appropriate Young Readers books for kids aged 7-12.

Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things!

Tracy also writes non-fiction for kids. Check out Feeling Precocious! Understanding & Accepting Early-Onset Puberty in her Awesome & Diverse Book Series for kids aged 8-11. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is still Tracy’s favorite book ever!

Click on the book to have a preview

  

Other Recommended Puberty Resources & Books for Tweens

https://sexedrescue.com/2016/10-puberty-books/

https://www.babble.com/mom/need-to-have-the-talk-top-20-parent-recommended-books-for-boys-and-girls-of-every-age/

http://thestir.cafemom.com/tweens_teens/166436/8_momapproved_books_on_puberty

https://geekdad.com/2014/02/top-10-sex-ed-books/

8 Comments

  1. Tracy, you’ve given us a brilliant time capsule of struggling to adulthood. My tween years were very difficult, and I sometimes wonder how Insurvived them . What struck me about your post is that kids today grapple with the same issues as Margaret did back then. I’ll be interested in hearing about your research about why the book was banned.

    • Hi Cat! Sorry to hear you had a tough time too. It’s so true that the issues contemporary kids face haven’t changed much since the 70’s and 80’s. Still researching but stay tuned:) Thanks for your thoughtful comments Cat!

  2. Hi Tracy! I enjoyed your post today. I do remember this book. Our mom told us about it. I don’t recall reading or hearing about it in school.
    Looking back, there were many books banned in the schools over the generations of time and then released once again.

    How did you feel reading it the second time? Did you remember how you felt as a young child when reading it again?

    Thanks for your interesting post today!
    Have a great weekend,
    Rosie

  3. Hi Tracy, I’ve never heard of this book before, but I agree it sounds like it doesn’t belong in the teen section. Ten year old girls would be still keen to read this today as much as they did in the 70’s. It reminded me of a controversial book released around the same time over here. Titled “Puberty Blues” by Kathy Lette. It was set in the Sydney suburbs around Cronulla beach where I grew up and faced the struggles of teenage girls facing their first encounters with boys, love and sex. More a YA novel but also has some very interesting points to make.

  4. Great blog post, Tracy. I can’t wait to hear what your research turns up about why it was in the teen section. As you stated, this is definitely not the appropriate age category for this book!

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