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October 3, 2023 41 mins

When Hillary was growing up, she and her friends didn’t have Judy Blume to guide them through the bewildering changes that come with puberty. She wishes they had. 

 

When Judy began writing as a young housewife raising two children in suburban New Jersey in the late 1960s, topics like menstruation, sex, bullying, divorce, and religion were considered taboo in books for young readers. Judy changed that, with titles like Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, Blubber, Deenie, and Forever. 

 

These books struck a chord with millions of readers, but they also landed her in some hot water. Since the culture wars of the Reagan era, Judy's novels have consistently been found on the American Library Association's list of most banned books. 

 

Today, at age 85, Judy Blume is enjoying something of a renaissance. The film adaptation of Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret came out this past spring to critical acclaim, and there's a new documentary film about her on Amazon Prime. And while she is no longer writing novels, she is still connecting with young readers, especially when they come into the nonprofit bookstore that she and her husband run in Key West, Florida. 

 

In this wide-ranging conversation, Hillary and Judy touch on everything from comic books and sex education to book banning and the responsibility that comes with a mailbox full of letters from young people seeking guidance.

 

Read a full transcript HERE.

 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
I'm Hillary Clinton and this is you and Me Both.
I am so thrilled to be joined this week by
the groundbreaking author Judy Bloom. Since she began writing in
the late sixties, Judy's books have struck a chord with
so many millions of readers, from are You There, God,

(00:22):
It's Me Margaret to Tales of a fourth grade Nothing
to Blubber, Let's Not Forget Forever. That one was famously
passed around among groups of friends. Some of the pages
were dog eared because they had quote sex scenes in them.
Her open, frank way that her novels engaged with subjects that,

(00:43):
you know, we're considered taboo, like sexuality, bullying, divorce, religion
really resonated with young people now. Of course, writing about
those topics also got her into some hot water since
the culture War. Back in the Reagan era, Judy's novels
have consistently landed on the American Library Association's list of

(01:08):
most Banned books. But today Judy Bloom is enjoying something
of a renaissance. The film adaptation of Are You There, God,
It's Me Margaret came out this past spring to critical acclaim,
and it caused a resurgence of women of a certain
age talking about their formative experiences with the story and

(01:33):
Judy Bloom Forever, a new documentary film about her, is
streaming now on Amazon Prime. There are so many things
I want to talk to Judy about, including her efforts
to combat book bands and the nonprofit bookstore that she
and her husband run down in Key West, Florida. I
am so delighted she's joining me on the podcast. Are

(01:56):
you there, Judy Bloom, It's me Hillary.

Speaker 2 (02:01):
I am there, Hillary. Hello, Hello, good morning.

Speaker 1 (02:05):
Oh. I cannot tell you what a treat it is
for me to talk with you. And I asked a
couple of my childhood friends from ancient times who are
still vacation with visit with, you know, catch up with
all the time, you know what, they'd want me to
talk to you about and to a person because we're

(02:27):
a little older than you know when you started. They said, Oh,
I wish she'd written when we were we were wondering
about life, and they reminded me, and I just wanted
to tell you that I remember in sixth grades, this
would have been probably nineteen fifty seven, maybe fifty eight.

(02:47):
All the girls in the sixth grade were ushered into
our school auditorium. There was brown paper covering the windows
in the doors leading to the auditorium. We had no
idea why we were there. And we sat down and
they showed us a film about mens duration, and I,

(03:10):
along with the vast majority of my classmates, as we
were recalling the other day when I was telling them
I was talking to you, had never heard of it.
I remember one of my friends saying, wait, I'm gonna bleed,
I'll die. And you know I had a wonderful mother,
but she never said a word. I came home from school,

(03:33):
I said, we saw this film, and she goes, oh, oh,
so now you understand. No, I did not understand. But
none of us knew about this. This this this very
natural thing that is the experience of you know, all
of us. And I know I know from reading about you.
You you didn't grow up with any more openness than

(03:56):
I did.

Speaker 2 (03:58):
My mother didn't talk about anything, but my father did.

Speaker 1 (04:01):
Oh, my god, my father would never have sort of worried.

Speaker 2 (04:04):
My father did. My father is the one who told
me about menstruation.

Speaker 1 (04:09):
Oh.

Speaker 2 (04:09):
I didn't understand anything that he was saying. It had
to do with a lunar cycle and the moon being full,
and so I would look out the window and if
the moon was full, I said, this is now, is
the time that all the women are having this wonderful experience.
I couldn't wait to get my period.

Speaker 1 (04:28):
I really really wanted it. As you know from my books.
Oh my gosh, thank goodness, you had a father like that.
Most of us did not. The last thing my father
ever would have talked to me about is anything personal.
But you know your mother, and you've written about her,
You've done interviews. I've read long, long interviews with you

(04:49):
over the years. You know, you're so open about how
you didn't have that kind of intimate, open relationship with
your mom. But you know she started typing your early books, right,
she did that open up a conversation or was it
just like I will type this.

Speaker 2 (05:07):
It was so strange because she came to my house
type to type it. She was a crackerjack typist. And
when my father died, and he died early at age
fifty four, she went to work at a law firm
and she was their typist, one of their many typist,
I guess, but they always said when when she went

(05:28):
on vacation, they had to hire two people to take
her place. She was great, and I have to say
she is the person who really so encouraged me to
read and never restricted what I chose to read. She
would say, I think you would like this book, and
Frank she.

Speaker 1 (05:48):
Kind of related to you then in a way through books.

Speaker 2 (05:51):
Yes, yes, and that's a wonderful thing that parents and
kids can do. Maybe you can't talk about me, but
you can talk about this character in a book, and
that's great. However, my mother came to the house, she
typed my manuscripts and that was it. She did not

(06:13):
ask questions. I did not let her type the manuscript
for forever. She did type, Margaret, you know, these were finished.
I can type. I'm a pretty good typist. But she
would do the one that was going to the publisher
and never said anything, Oh my, I never said a thing.

(06:34):
Isn't that weird?

Speaker 1 (06:35):
It is weird, but it's weirdly touching too, you know.
She wanted to be helpful. She couldn't really talk to
you about even what you were writing. I do think
a lot of it is generational, you know, women of
her generation, my mother's generation born you know, in the
early part of the twentieth century, you know, I don't

(06:57):
think they had anybody to talk to. You know, my
mother had a terrible childhood, and you know, just ugh,
I don't know how she survived it. And so when
I learned more about that, I just couldn't even imagine
what it must have been like for her. But what
you did, and what was so incredibly impactful about your writing,

(07:19):
is that you kind of brought these very real childhood,
personal growing up experiences to public light. And maybe a
mother or a father or both couldn't talk to their child,
but you, in a way were talking for them because
you were allowing these issues, these concerns that kids have

(07:44):
to be legitimized.

Speaker 2 (07:46):
Well, I like that, Thank you. That's not what I
was thinking. Of course, when I was writing, I was
just you know, I had all this stuff inside me,
and I had the creative and I needed a place
to put it because I then remember my generation, we

(08:07):
married early, we had our children early, and.

Speaker 1 (08:11):
Then what.

Speaker 2 (08:13):
Yeah, and I think I do think in my generation
that's why there was so much divorce. You know, I
was a junior in college when I got married, and
you know, I had two kids by the time I
was twenty five, right, and I liked taking care of babies.
But then then what yeah, exactly, and I desperately needed

(08:37):
the creative outlet. It could have been anything, but I
was home with two little kids, and I did have
stories running around in my head forever since I was
nine years old. So it's like, okay, let's see, let's
see if I can do this.

Speaker 1 (08:54):
So your first book, the title is so great, the
one in the Kangaroo Kelly, that was forgettable. That's forgettable.

Speaker 2 (09:03):
It amazes me that it's still in print and that
children read it, but little children, little children, And there
was a publisher, and I guess a publisher, right, So
how did you go from feeling, you know, the need
to express yourself creatively to getting that first book in print?

Speaker 1 (09:20):
Well, I knew.

Speaker 2 (09:21):
Nothing, you know. It was extremely naive and I didn't
know anybody who wrote or anybody in publishing. But I
read magazines about, you know, how to publish your book.
That first book was not the book that brought me
my incredible editor, the best editor in the whole world,

(09:42):
Dick Jackson. That was the next book, Iggy's House. So
the first book was published just you know, I would
send the manuscript out and it would come back and
I would send it out to somebody else and somebody
published it. But of course what's unforgettable to me is
working with Jackson. I mean, Dick Jackson really discovered me,

(10:04):
found me, nurtured me. Every one of his writers felt
and still continues to feel the same way about him.
How lucky, how incredible to find a person like this.
And apparently he worked differently with every one of his writers,
you know.

Speaker 1 (10:24):
Like, does he do that with you?

Speaker 3 (10:25):
Wait?

Speaker 1 (10:26):
No, does he do that?

Speaker 2 (10:28):
It's almost like girlfriend's talking about a boyfriend. But it wasn't,
you know. It was just a way that he found
that he recognized what we needed and he gave that
to us, and for me, all of my early books,
not the Fudge books, because Dick and his partner Bob
ver Owen said to me, oh, Judy, you're so prolific.

(10:51):
This was ages ago. You're so prolific. Why don't you
do those funny books that you're writing with somebody else?

Speaker 1 (10:59):
Wow?

Speaker 2 (11:00):
I know, And that was a big joke between us
later on. You know, how did they let those books go?
But they did, and they were very small company, and
I was prolific in those days.

Speaker 1 (11:13):
They just couldn't handle your workload. I was getting the
job done.

Speaker 2 (11:17):
I don't know how, because I used to think, someday, someday,
when the kids are bigger, I will have much more
time to do this.

Speaker 1 (11:28):
And you know what happened.

Speaker 2 (11:30):
The more time I had to do this, the less
well I used my time.

Speaker 1 (11:34):
And what did your kids think about their mom writing books?
Because clearly at some point they realized that there were
books that you actually had written, maybe on the kitchen
table or in a desk in their house somewhere.

Speaker 2 (11:46):
The first two were at the kitchen table on the
college typewriter. You know, it evolved. I mean, if you
ask them now at sixty and sixty two, what they
would tell you something different. But my daughter was my
first reader, you know, she was a reader always, and
come home from school and she pulled the pages out

(12:08):
of the typewriter and she would sit there and read them.
And she says that I always watched her to see
what she thought was funny, how she was reacting, and
she would say, I can't read while you're looking at me.
Stop looking at me. And my son says he remembers
the clickiti clickiti claque of the typewriter but really and truly,

(12:31):
I feel that I didn't make enough of the fact
that I was a working mom because there weren't any
on our cul de sac we lived in suburban New Jersey.
I never let them see I think the struggle and
the pain, and I think that's important.

Speaker 1 (12:53):
So if a listener is thinking to herself, let's say
or himself, but let's stick with herself. Gee, I want
to do that too. And they have like young kids
at home, you think, now, maybe sharing more of that
process with them, letting them see this is you know,
something you care deeply about and it takes time, it

(13:14):
takes discipline. Is that something you would advise?

Speaker 2 (13:18):
Well, I mean women weren't going out to work so much.

Speaker 1 (13:22):
Oh, I know, I did not personally know any friend
whose mother worked. Now I had women teachers, so clearly
I knew women work, right, but nurse.

Speaker 2 (13:32):
You could be a teacher or a nurse or if.

Speaker 1 (13:34):
You sometimes you go into a store or the library
and you'd see other women. But that seemed very disconnected
from my neighborhood because nobody worked. None of the women work.
The men left in the morning, they came back for dinner.

Speaker 2 (13:45):
Yep. And it is very different. But I do think that.
I don't say, sit down and talk to your kids
about the struggle. That's not how I would do it.
I mean, just let them see it. Let them see
what's going on the struggle. Don't hide it from them.
You know, my first rejection, I went into the closet
and I closed the door and I cried. Yeah, they

(14:08):
were very small. Did they need to see that? No,
that was mine, that was private. My husband, my then husband,
never saw it. I don't know if he was aware
really of what was going on. He just he well,
this is terrible, but he thought it was cute.

Speaker 1 (14:25):
Yeah, I thought it was that again, is something very generational.
But there was something else going on with you, Judy
that I've always thought because you didn't just write whatever
the more advanced version of you know, see Dick Run,
see Jane catch the ball. I mean you you began
to tackle issues of you know, race and sex and religion.

(14:51):
Those were taboos. I mean I remember being told you
never talk about religion, and they didn't have to say
don't talk about sex.

Speaker 2 (14:59):
That was just assumed that didn't exist, that did not exist.

Speaker 1 (15:04):
You know, we had no idea. How did you come
to you know, really embrace issues that others were not
writing about, let alone talking about. Was it kind of
scary to you to do that?

Speaker 2 (15:20):
I really can't explain, except that when I started, I
knew that I wanted to write books that I would
have wanted to read when I was a kid, and
I knew that I wanted to be honest. I felt
that adults in my life anyway, adults kept secrets from kids.
Everything was secrets. I hated secrets. And so I mean

(15:44):
that in a way, that's how I started my life
of you know, inventing stories inside my head when I
was nine years old. Because of the secrets and because
nobody told me so, I had to make up the
stories that went with the secrets. And I did want
to be honest. And I have kids say to me,

(16:05):
what's your superpower? I now have decided what my superpower is.
It's my memory.

Speaker 1 (16:11):
Oh that's fascinating in what way.

Speaker 2 (16:14):
I had a fantastic memory for the details of being
a child, and I still do. I mean, I may
not know where my glasses are, or my keys, or
you know, and remember to put on my little hearing aids,
but I still have that memory for long ago.

Speaker 1 (16:37):
And children are very observant, and so children know a
lot more than they are given credit for, don't.

Speaker 2 (16:43):
They They did?

Speaker 3 (16:44):
You know.

Speaker 2 (16:45):
I have a bookstore in Key West, and when especially
a young child comes into the bookstore, you know, we
can look into each other's eyes. I think this anyway,
and we recognize something there. I'm talking four or five
six year old. You know, the parent or the grandparent
has always read this book. Get this book, you know,

(17:07):
and I just make eye contact with the child. I'm
careful in the bookstore not to say to the parents, no,
don't do that. And then when it's older kids, it's like,
please please just let them brows and choose their own books.
Don't stand there and say, no, that's not a real
book because it's a graphic novel. Don't stand there and

(17:29):
say that's a comic book and you can't have you know.
I don't know about you, but I, as much as
I read books, I love comic books.

Speaker 1 (17:37):
I did too.

Speaker 2 (17:38):
Brenda star Girl reporter.

Speaker 1 (17:39):
Oh, Brenda Starr covered you know, she was carried in
the Chicago Tribune. She was and this sounds ridiculous, but
you'll understand she was the only grown up woman character
that I knew of who had a job, and not
just a job, a glamorous, exciting job, and a boyfriend

(18:02):
with a patch over his eye. I mean, the whole
thing was so seductive, and I was a faithful reader
because it took me out of my present circumstances, because
none of that existed where I was living.

Speaker 2 (18:16):
You probably don't remember this, but once I interviewed you
for the twenty fifth anniversary, I think of Sesame Street
and this has to do with Brenda Star. And that
morning I was getting dressed and George, my husband, took
a photo of me a little polaroid and it says

(18:38):
Brenda Star, girl reporter going off to meet with Hiller.

Speaker 1 (18:46):
Oh my god, I love that. Oh you've got to
send me a screenshot of the polaroid.

Speaker 3 (18:50):
Oh, I love it.

Speaker 1 (18:54):
We're taking a quick break. Stay with us. You know
the recent documentary about you. I had a documentary done
about me. I don't know about you, but it's scary.
I mean, you know, you basically agree and then, at

(19:16):
least in my case, is kind of out of your
hands and off we go. Did you find that as well?

Speaker 2 (19:22):
I didn't want to do it.

Speaker 1 (19:23):
Yeah, I didn't want to do it.

Speaker 2 (19:25):
But I like the filmmakers very much and I trusted them.

Speaker 1 (19:32):
Right, That's how I ended up. But that was not
an easy process to get to. But you know, one
of the things that struck me that's in the documentary
is the correspondence that you've had over the years with
your readers. I didn't know that. I mean, you know,
I had a similar experience in a way when Chelsea

(19:53):
was five years old. She wrote a letter to President
Reagan because we were talking at the dinner table that
he was going to Germany and he was going to
go visit a cemetery where a lot of Nazis were buried,
and Bill and I were, you know, really unhappy about that,
and we were talking about it over dinner, and so
Chelsea started asking these questions like, you know, what does

(20:15):
this mean? Who were the Nazis? What happened? And then
she said she wanted to write a letter to President Reagan.
And she wrote a letter, you know, asking us to
help her spell. But she basically said, dear President Reagan,
please don't go visit the cemetery. The Nazis were not nice.
I saw the sound of music. Oh that's how we

(20:40):
related it to her, and we sent the letter off
and she never got a response. I mean for weeks
she would, you know, come home from school and say
did I get a letter? And I'd have to tell
her no. So when Bill was elected president and we
were moving to the White House, I asked her, I said, well,
is there anything you particularly want your dad to do
as president? And she said, I want him to make

(21:03):
sure that every child who writes him a letter gets
an answer. So we set up this big correspondence unit
literally to answer kids letters. Most of whom in it
were volunteers, wonderful people who took a day out of
their week to come do this. So when I learned
that you had correspondents with kids who read your letters,

(21:25):
and those letters are now in the Yale University Archives,
I was so touched. Talk to us about how that
started and what it meant to you.

Speaker 2 (21:35):
Well, it was a huge surprise, you know, that first
that somebody read my book, and then that that child
would think to write to me. That the first letter
was from a twelve year old girl, and I guess
she had read Margaret because that was public. That was
my third published book and the first one that really
got out there. And I mean I was so excited.

(21:58):
Of course I wrote back, and that was the beginning.
It did reach a point where it took over my life.
It became so difficult. Then I didn't know what to do.
I actually consulted with a therapist because there were some
as you know, that went on for years and years
and years. You actually didn't get in the documentary the

(22:21):
really well you got one serious woman. There there were
many others, many, many, many others.

Speaker 1 (22:27):
I want our listeners to understand if they haven't seen
the documentary, that we're talking about children writing you with
serious problems, even you know, threatening suicide and just pouring
their little hearts out to you.

Speaker 2 (22:42):
Yes, I mean with that comes a great responsibility, does
It does? Because you can't ignore them. You want to
try to help. And that's when I consulted with someone
because there was one particular kid that I just grew
to love and I I wanted to save her, and

(23:03):
the professional helped me understand that I couldn't necessarily save
her or any of the others, but I could be
a supportive friend, and that just by acknowledging what they
were writing about, you know, acknowledging their lives and their problems,

(23:24):
that that was a good thing to do.

Speaker 1 (23:27):
You know, I've had somewhat similar experiences in public life
where people either write to me or whisper in my
ear and confide, you know, deeply personal stories, struggles, questions,
And on the one hand it is such a responsibility,
it's also such an honor that, for whatever reason, some

(23:51):
other human being, often a young person, is willing to
open up to you. You know, people want to be
heard and they want to be seen, especially children. You know,
I was talking to a group of teenagers because you know,
there's a lot of legitimate worry about what's happening with teens,
especially teenage girls today, and the rise of anxiety and

(24:13):
depression and eating disorders, and the linkage with you know,
what happens on social media. And I asked this, you know,
a group of fifteen sixteen year olds what they thought
could be helpful. I mean, were there you know, programs
or people. And one of them said to me, you
just don't understand how hard it is to talk to
your own parents.

Speaker 2 (24:33):
That's just what I was going to say. Why did
they all write to me, or why did they write
to you and confide in us? Because it's so hard
to talk to your parents. It's so much easier when
you don't see the person at the breakfast table the
next day. You know, in my day, I mean, it
was a letter. So they was writing a letter and

(24:55):
sealing it and putting a stamp on it, putting it
in the mailbox, and.

Speaker 1 (25:00):
That was it.

Speaker 2 (25:01):
They got out what they had to get out. They
didn't know I would answer them. They just got it
out in a safe way. They didn't want to talk
to their parents about it.

Speaker 1 (25:15):
We'll be right back. And now, of course we're engaged,
and yet another battle over children what they read, the
books that are in libraries, school libraries, you know, by

(25:39):
outspoken groups of parents who are reaffirming that stereotype. You know,
I don't want to talk to my children about these
difficult issues, and I don't want anybody else either talking
to them or writing something.

Speaker 2 (25:55):
And I don't want them reading it because it's dangerous.
They're afraid. I mean, that was pretty much the way
it was in the eighties, the book banning craze of
the eighties. It's never gone away, but it's hasn't been
so intrusive. But today what's so scary is that it's
coming from government it's coming from state legislatures. It's coming

(26:19):
for you know, I'm a resident of that state. We
used to say, oh, Key West, isn't Florida, you know,
we used to be able to joke about that. But
we have the same governor, we have the same legislatures.
I've I just read that forty percent of the book
banning in school libraries is from the state of Florida.

Speaker 1 (26:43):
That doesn't surprise me.

Speaker 2 (26:44):
So very scary stuff going on.

Speaker 1 (26:47):
And it's also it allows literally one parent with I
would argue a political agenda to demand that a book
be withdrawn. And as you know far better than I,
you've consistently had some of your books on the American
Library Association's lists of most challenged books. I hope you

(27:10):
wear that as a badge of honor. And that does
go all the way back to the nineteen eighties. How
did you feel when somebody like Phyllis Schlaffley, for example,
of a name from the past, would attack you and
attack your books and say that the material was too
sexually explicit and everything they accused you of When that

(27:32):
happened to you, were you as shocked as I think
you should have been.

Speaker 2 (27:37):
Yes, and you know, it was depressing. I'm a person
who likes to get out there and do something, and
I didn't know what to do, and the publishers weren't
so much behind us then as they are now. Interest
I found then, or maybe they've found me, the National
Coalition Against Censorship, And once I found them, I knew

(28:00):
what to do. I had my people. You know, that's
the thing is, you're not as lone as you think
you are. You're not the only person this is happening to,
just like getting your period right, the other people being banned,
and here is an organization that's working to promote the
freedom to read, intellectual freedom.

Speaker 1 (28:22):
It can be so liberating and empowering. It was. It
really cuts through the loneliness that not just children but
people feel, you know, to discover there is somebody else
like you, somebody else has bumped up against that obstacle.
And you know, but you've said before, I read somewhere

(28:43):
that you can't debate the zealots, but you got to
find a way to fight back, and you do have
to try to rally other people, fair minded people who
don't want books to be banned in our country. How
do you find that balance? Really tough between advocacy that's
productive and then getting into these you know, downward spiral

(29:07):
loops of arguing with the zellots.

Speaker 2 (29:10):
I now think that the way to go, Yes, people
should speak out, but I think the way to go
is to join forces with the great organizations that we
have pen America National Coalition against Censorship, ALA, American Library Association.

(29:31):
They all have programs, they know what to do. And
this is what I tell people who ask me. I say,
join up, join up, find out, join just if you
can even read one website and get your information and
then become part of this.

Speaker 1 (29:51):
And I hope all of our listeners will follow that recommendation,
because you know, we need more and more people supporting
the organization and speaking out. You know, I have to
say that the recent filming of your extraordinary book Are
You Their God, It's me, Margaret, must have also been

(30:12):
challenging for you because it was like putting one of
your children out there, wasn't it to find out what
people thought?

Speaker 2 (30:17):
Well, I waited fifty years. I waited fifty years to
find the right team, right, Yeah, that was important and
I'm so glad I waited because most writers of the
original material don't like their movies.

Speaker 1 (30:33):
I've heard that from everything.

Speaker 2 (30:34):
I love this movie. I love it, love it, love it.
I just I loved every minute of working with them,
you know. I mean I didn't write the screenplay, but
they were always sending me drafts, and we were always
talking about backstories. They were very inclusive. I was on
the set for five weeks, and I do love it.

(30:57):
I love the movie, and I'm so happy that it
got such wonderful reviews.

Speaker 1 (31:04):
I also thought that book in particular, not only stood
the test of time, but was theologically very very important.

Speaker 2 (31:15):
Nobody knew then.

Speaker 1 (31:17):
You know.

Speaker 2 (31:17):
I meet adults who come into the bookstore and they say,
I just read Margaret again, and you know, I don't
remember anything about religion. Did you put that in later?
It's like, no, it was always there. They just remember,
you know, what was important to them at that time,
which was puberty and friends and family.

Speaker 1 (31:40):
You know, I remember when I was I was writing
It Takes a Village back in the early nineties, and
I had a chapter about, you know, kids are theologians
in part you know, motivated by your book because kids
start asking questions when they're relatively young. You know what
happens when you die? Or does God watch us all

(32:02):
the time? And you know, that's another subject that is
really important to children, but there aren't very many books
that have written about it. But you're taking Margaret and
putting her into a kind of dialogue with God was
so important.

Speaker 2 (32:21):
That was me, That was me. I had a dialogue
going really to make sure that my father was safe
in two school years when we weren't together, which is
the story to Miami, right, yeah, that's a story of
starring Sally J. Freeman as herself. But that is when
I became I became kind of obsessive about these prayers

(32:42):
that I invented and I had to do this and
I had to do that to make sure my father
was safe. It was like what a burden for a
nine year old, right, oh, yeah, to think it's up
to me to keep him safe. And then he was
flying back and forth and flying was was something well
it was so new then, commercial flying, commercial flights so new,

(33:06):
and I had to work so hard to protect him.

Speaker 1 (33:09):
And you're so right that children often assume responsibilities for
what happens in their families that their families have no
idea about it. When you said that. I just remembered
this game we used to play when we walked to school,
and we you know, we'd be chanting if you step
on a crack, you'll break your father's back. Remember that,

(33:29):
because the sidewalks had, you know, cracks between the squares
of concrete, and I mean we would be totally obsessed
with not stepping on a crack so we wouldn't break
our father's back.

Speaker 2 (33:41):
I mean, in my case, it was break your mother's back.
I don't know why that was.

Speaker 1 (33:48):
I literally could talk to you forever, but I want
to before we have to wrap up. I wanted to
ask you know, you're you've said that you're not going
to write any more books. You're eighty five, now you're
running the book store in Key West. You and your
husband have a really full and loving life from everything
that has been described, taking walks and doing things together.

(34:11):
What did that feel like to say I'm going to
stop writing books.

Speaker 2 (34:15):
It felt great, you know what, fifty years, five oh years,
and it changed my life and I'm so glad that
I had it in my life. But then it got
to be you know, locked up, locked up for another
five years because the last book, and I'm so glad

(34:35):
I went out on this book. Took me five years,
so it's a relief. People say, don't you miss writing,
and like, no, I know, I don't even know how
I did it, you know, but I did it, and
I do have a full life. And I'm grateful that
the bookstore came along just when I said, that's it,

(34:57):
I'm done writing.

Speaker 1 (34:59):
That's so great to hear here, because you know, when
chapters close in your life, you can either feel regretful
and disappointed, or you can sort of look forward to, Okay,
what's the next adventure. What happens you know now? And
I've heard you've taken up or you can be found
tap dancing.

Speaker 2 (35:20):
Oh that goes back to I think I started tap
dancing when I moved to New York. Originally I was
maybe forty ish and I saw a tap dancing class
above the bagel shop on eighty whatever Street, and I said,
I'm going to do that, and I did become obsessive

(35:42):
about it. I loved it. I didn't want to do
anything but go to tap class. And when we moved
to Key West, of course, you know, I put away
my tap shoes and then we found we had a
teacher in Key West, and so I took out the
top shoes and loved it. I haven't done it in
a while.

Speaker 1 (36:01):
I'm a little bit.

Speaker 2 (36:02):
You know what my doctor says to me. The only
advice I have is do not fall.

Speaker 1 (36:07):
That's the last word my doctor says to me every
time I see her, do not fall.

Speaker 2 (36:12):
And so I don't know, but maybe I love it.
I still walk along the street and I do certain
riffs that I learned way back then. Yes, I can still.
I can still top dance. It's because my mother said,
Jewish girls don't tap. Jewish girls take ballet. And I
loved ballet, but I also wanted to slap my feet

(36:35):
on the ground. It's so satisfying, and so I waited
a long time to do it. But then I I
got pretty good. I bet you were not great, not great,
but pretty good.

Speaker 1 (36:47):
Well to finally wrap up, Judy, which is just such
a joy talking to you, I'm wondering if you were
to talk to your own eight or nine year old self,
you know, back when you were growing up, or or
fast forwarding talk to eight or nine year olds today,
what would you say about both the traditional and some

(37:08):
of the new challenges that kids have to navigate.

Speaker 2 (37:12):
Oh my god, listen, listen to yourself, ask your questions
to somebody you trust, and never give up. You know,
that's the thing determination really, when you say get the
job done, it's determination as much as talent or anything else.

(37:34):
It's I am determined. So find what you love to
do and do it. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (37:43):
Well, Judy Bloom, thank you for finding.

Speaker 4 (37:46):
What you love to do all those years ago, starting
you know, when you literally were a child with all
your questions and your curiosity, and then sharing everything that
you were thinking and giving young people but some not
so young, the comfort.

Speaker 1 (38:05):
And really the sense of belonging that your stories have provided.
And I hope I'll get to see you tap dance
sometime in the future. If I ever get to Key West,
I'm coming right to that bookstore.

Speaker 2 (38:21):
Thank you, Y. I don't know if you'll see me
tap dancing, but I surely would like to see you.
Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1 (38:33):
For more of Judy, go check out the documentary Judy
Bloom Forever on Amazon Prime, or go back and read
one of your favorite books by her. You know, speaking
of books we loved as kids. When I was younger,
I was a big fan of the Nancy Drew series.
I still love a good mystery, and especially one that
is written by my dear friend and one of my

(38:54):
favorite authors, Louise Penny, who's also been a guest on
this podcast. Louise is best known for her award winning
series revolving around Inspector Gomash up in Quebec and the
tight knit community in eastern Quebec that he is part of.
You know, for some reason, that little town of Three

(39:15):
Pines always seems to be in the throes of yet
another murder, and Louise and I had so much fun
collaborating on our own political mystery thriller, State of Terror.
When I had her on the podcast, we talked about
how she first discovered mysteries.

Speaker 3 (39:32):
I remember clearly the first time, because I was a
voracious reader as a child, but never crime novels. And
I remember coming up the stairs and my mother came
out of the bedroom and it was mid afternoon or so,
and she was holding a book and she said, you know,
I just finished this book and I think you'd like it.
And she handed it to me and it was still

(39:52):
warm from her hands, and it was an Agatha Christian.
It was the first time that my mother and I
I shared a book. It's become magic since then, and
I've had such a soft spot for Christy since then
as well, and for crime novels.

Speaker 1 (40:09):
You can find this conversation and so many others with
people I admire. Just go to You and Me Both
wherever you listen to podcasts. You and Me Both is
brought to you by iHeart Podcasts. We're produced by Julie Subren,
Kathleen Russo and Rob Russo, with help from Kuma Abadeen,

(40:34):
Oscar Flores, Lindsey Hoffman, Sarah Horowitz, Laura Olin, Lona Valmorro
and Lily Weber. Our engineer is Zach McNeice, and the
original music is by Forrest Gray. If you like You
and Me Both, tell someone else about it. And if
you're not already a subscriber, what are you waiting for?

(40:57):
You can subscribe to You and Me Both on the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Thanks for listening and I'll see you next week.
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