Greetings again from the darkness. It’s not unusual for readers to feel a connection to their favorite author, but very few can match the bond shared by writer Judy Blume and her followers. Co-directors Davino Pardo and Leah Wolchok set out to profile the writer whose staggering sales figures (more than 80 million books sold) pale in comparison to the impact she had on so many young girls.
A film adaption (directed by Kelly Fremon Craig) of Ms. Blume’s most well-known book, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret”, is set for a release that corresponds to this documentary, so it’s likely her work is about to experience a revival of sorts. You might wonder how a 1970 book for adolescent girls could still have relevance today, and the answer is that the author is one of the few who addressed what mattered (and matters) to this group: masturbation, menstruation, relationships, body development. Blume’s work addressed these topics in such a way that girls could not only easily relate, but they felt comfort in knowing that they weren’t facing these changes alone. Blume became a best-selling author and a trusted advisor.
The filmmakers opt to include interviews with celebrities such as Molly Ringwald, Lena Dunham, and Samantha Bee, yet it’s the words from “normal” girls and women who recount the impact of the books that strikes an emotional chord. Watching Judy go through the mounds of letters she received from readers brings emphasis to what matters here. Yale University houses Blume’s archies, letters, and papers, and we sense the sentimentality as she re-reads some of these. Regular correspondence with writers Mary H.K. Choi and Lorrie Kim is remarkable, but it’s the consistent letters back and forth with Karen Chilstrom over so many years that pack an emotional wallop. Segments with Judy’s own children, daughter Randy and son Larry, are also included.
We learn Judy was a traditional 1950’s housewife who pursued a career of her own, a not-so-traditional move of the times. She persevered despite many closed doors, and went on to have incredible success doing exactly what she wanted in a style that bucked the trends. That she sold so many books is remarkable when you consider that the target audience for many of her books were too young to even buy books. We see numerous clips of Blume on TV Talk Shows telling her story … her confrontation with ultra-conservative James Buchannan is particularly entertaining. Although the film goes mostly in chronological order, only the most ardent fans will know what year a book being discussed was released. Now in her 80’s, Blume and her husband run a bookstore in Key West with a posted sign that reads … “We sell banned books.” What a fitting exclamation point to a remarkable woman and her career.
Streaming on Prime Video beginning April 21, 2023