I read last November in Entertainment Weekly that Judy Blume has finally sold the film rights to her famous book, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Since I’m in full swing of my reading kick, I got ahead of the game prior to hearing anything about the film being in motion. To be honest, I can’t remember if I read this book when I was younger or not. I definitely read other Judy Blume books growing up, as she’s wildly popular for the age group. Disregarding the title, my knowledge of Judy Blume had me believing that this would be a story of a young girl starting to grow into a teenager. While that is definitely still a theme of the novel, religion is also the major discussion.
Margaret doesn’t have a religion, as it has created outstanding problems for her family. Her father was Jewish and her mother was Christian, and both of their families had strong opinions on the matter. As a result, Margaret is told that she could decide for herself when she got older. And yet, she finds herself talking to God in the way that a young girl might write in her diary. As a part of an independent school project, she starts to explore different faiths by attending different places of worship with friends. We watch Margaret try to navigate this difficult subject on her own, while also being pulled in a variety of directions from her family.
Naturally, Margaret and her friends also navigate growing up items for girls such as their first periods, stuffing their bras, and kissing boys at their class supper parties. Most of what Margaret is trying to learn here leads her back to her discussions with God. She prays for her breasts to grow; she prays to not be the last of her friends to menstruate. She communicates with God regularly, but says she cannot find him in religion. She only feels him when she is alone.
The relationships between Margaret and her family prove to be the most interesting. She is close with her Grandma, who treats her a lot like an adult. There’s also a lot of tension created as a result of religion. This is heightened when Margaret’s other grandparents come to visit, ruining her spring break with her Grandma. These grandparents have not spoken with Margaret or her parents for over 14 years, as a result of a disagreement on religion. Naturally, during their visit, a fight breaks out on the subject.
It’s honestly satisfying to see a child be right and adults be wrong about something so serious and profound as religion. In Margaret’s self discovery for faith, she is exploring options and seeing where she feels God. She is reaching out in times of need, questioning things happening around her, and wishing to be the best version of herself. To me, that’s exactly what faith should be about. And yet, the adults focus on arbitrary traditions and rules in a way that affects everyone’s relationship to each other. The grandparents push Christianity, the Grandma pushes Judaism, and Margaret’s parents end up pushing NO religion as a result – proving that no one actually wants to let Margaret figure it out on her own.
I found this topic wildly fascinating, specifically through the innocent eyes of a young girl. You can find Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret anywhere fine books are sold. The cover has been updated many times over the years, and the most recent includes the modern looking text format. Just as an aside, you can also find Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, wherever books are sold as well, if you are a Chelsea Handler fan.
Thanks for reading!