I don’t know about you, but I found adolescence confounding, particularly because I was an early bloomer. Having to choose a bra at the tender age of ten was a nearly unendurable humiliation. Thankfully, bras were tucked away in the northeast corner of the Youth Center, Bloomfield’s paean to seventies youth fashion (Health-tex, anyone?).
Books helped me through that period (and that period). I was mostly a Sci Fi kid (and still am), but
all the girls were everyone was reading Judy Blume, so I did too. The book that I remember most isn’t the perennial Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
The book I remember most is Blubber.
Why? Because I was the fat kid. And then I turned into the kid who taunted the fat kid. I wanted the cool girls to like me. And so, even though I knew it was wrong, I joined pretty and popular Suzanne D. as she performed jumping jacks in front of Sharon H., chanting “Exercise helps keep you skinny! Exercise helps keep you skinny!” until Sharon’s lower lip quivered and she started to cry. And then she ran, with her left arm covering her face and her straight, bowl-cut, dirty blonde hair swinging like fringe, out of the sixth grade classroom and into the hallway. She was wearing a white shirt, wrinkled and untucked at the back. Her gait was awkward. She bumped into a desk. I remember everything. Everything.
I feel shame 34 years later. And the cool girls still don’t like me.
Hearing the name Judy Blume sends me back in time to those confusing days. But hearing the name Judy Blume also reminds me of how her books helped me make sense of what was happening. And although today’s adolescent confusions and behaviors are twisted and magnified by the Internet, at the core the issues remain the same: how do we respond to our encounters with racism, bullying, sex and sexuality, our bodies?
The Mark Twain House & Museum is bringing Judy Blume to the University of Hartford to speak as part of its Clemens Lecture series. Both Mark Twain and Judy Blume have written honestly about the adolescent experience in America, and Blume joins Twain as one of the most censored authors of the current era.
Julia Pistell, a talented Hartford writer, will be holding a conversation with Blume about her work, writing life, and legacy. The audience will be invited to participate in the conversation during an extensive Q&A period, after which Blume will hold a book-signing.
The evening promises exceptional access to this important author.
The event will take place at the Lincoln Theater at the University of Hartford.
Tickets cost $25 and $40. An $85 ticket provides VIP seating and a pre-event reception with Blume. To purchase a ticket, visit the University of Hartford box office. Live in Hartford readers are being given a $5 discount on the ticket price at all levels. The discount code is FUDGE.
Programming such as the Clemens Lecture sustains the Mark Twain House & Museum, and allows it to present programs that benefit the community and bring more visitors to Hartford, such as the popular Free Family Day. The next free family event is the annual Ice Cream Social, scheduled for Thursday July 26. Visit the museum’s website for more information about its programming.