In May, Judy Blume will be awarded the E.B. White Award, a lifetime achievement award for children’s literature that comes with a $10,000 prize, given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Blume, 79, is prolific, having penned nearly 30 books for readers of all ages.
How does she do it? A few years ago, Blume was asked about what keeps her writing—a notoriously difficult process in and of itself—so consistently. She said that her daughter told her to “get up every morning, sit at your desk and write down anything and everything and it will come.”
And that’s exactly what she does.
Her most recent book, In The Unlikely Event, is a novel for adults. The author and New Jersey native, whose childhood upbringing was “culturally Jewish rather than religious,” has often written about Jewish preteen and teenage characters. For half a century, Blume’s witty, subversive novels have told stories of American youth—especially Jewish American female youth.
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself features a young Jewish girl who is transplanted from New Jersey to Miami Beach. In addition to the social and emotional troubles that go along with moving, she must cope with the shadow of the Holocaust. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which I read and re-read when I was 10 or 11, features a young girl who struggles to choose her own religion—her mother is Christian and her father is Jewish—while simultaneously navigating the highs and lows of puberty. Forever, for older readers, is a tender and poignant portrait of a young woman’s first love. Blume’s candid exploration of these themes has made her a target of censorship by those who do not believe middle-grade readers should be exposed to such scandalous subjects as agnosticism and budding sexual awareness. As a result, she has become an outspoken advocate of free expression.
Blume’s books, more than any other writer of realist children’s and young adult literature I can think of, have stood the test of time. For that reason, she is certainly deserving of this lifetime achievement award.
Miranda Cooper is an editorial intern at Tablet. Follow her on Twitter here.