We're rapidly approaching the end of Banned Books Week (September 26th − October 3), and I've been thinking about it a lot. For the most part, I've been feeling grateful that my schools and libraries never challenged or banned books.
Then, I remembered the Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret incident.
I was a student at a Christian school (Southern Baptist run and funded). I always had a book in my desk for those times when I finished my homework and had to face long, boring study hour. My Mom had just given the Judy Blume book to me, so that's the one I decided to keep in my desk that particular week.
I was out sick one day, and my friend Sara knew I kept a book in my desk. She was bored, so she grabbed Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret from my desk and started reading. Mr. Baker walked around the classroom to keep tabs on the students. He saw Sara reading, grabbed the book from her, read the synopsis, and confiscated it.
When I got back to school the next day, Sara couldn't stop apologizing. "It's not your fault," I insisted.
When I asked Mr. Baker about my book, he told me that he had given it to the Principal. Apparently, it was "inappropriate" reading for a Christian school student.
(I didn't understand. Margaret spent more time thinking about religion and praying than I ever did. Were there actually rules about the things we were supposed to ponder and pray about? I didn't think so.)
When I asked the Principal, I was told I couldn't have it back until the end of the school year.
But I never got it back. I still get angry when I think about it. My Mom does, too!
I returned to public school the following year. I still struggle with prayer and what I believe. But I never stopped reading Judy Blume and other "controversial" books.
I recently picked up a new copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret to replace the unfairly confiscated edition from all those years ago. I smile every time I see bookstore and library shelves stocked with Judy Blume!
In fact, she can explain how I feel about book banning much better than I can.
Check it out: