Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
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|Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.|
1970 paperback edition
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. is a 1970 book by Judy Blume, typically categorized as a novel for young adults, about a preteen girl in sixth grade who grew up with no religion. Margaret has one Christian and one Jewish parent, and the novel explores her quest for a single religion. Margaret also confronts many other pre-teen issues, such as buying her first bra, having her first period (and coping with belted sanitary napkins), jealousy towards another girl who has developed a womanly figure earlier than other girls, liking boys, and whether to voice her opinion if it differs from what her girlfriends seem to believe.
The main conflict in the novel comes from Margaret's need to reconcile her mixed religious heritage. She also deals with her issues of belief in God, as the story is frequently interlaced with her praying by beginning with the title's words. In school, she is assigned a year long independent study project, to which she chooses a study on people's beliefs, which proves to be more than she can handle as she is finding a lot about herself as well. She also is dealing with conflict between her grandparents on both sides of her family, as her maternal grandparents are trying to ensure that she is indeed Christian as she was born with a Christian mother. Margaret seems to enjoy instead spending time with her paternal grandmother, who seems to accept her for who she is and is more accepting of her son's interfaith marriage, although she has referred to Margaret as "my Jewish girl" and introduced her to synagogue services, but more for the purpose of showing her granddaughter what the Jewish faith entails. (At the penultimate chapter, Margaret's grandmother introduces a Christian widower whom she has been dating to the family, indicating like Margaret's father she has entered into an interfaith relationship herself) One particular scene happened when Margaret got in a heated argument with another girl, she went to a church and went inside the confessional booth. When the unseen priest asked her what her problem was, she had at first believed God Himself was talking to her, as she was not taught the concept of confession or how a confessional booth was built for the purposes of confidentiality. She simply responds "I am sorry", then runs out of the church in tears. Also during this book, Margaret is feeling left out when her friends start getting their periods, and Margaret is sure that something's wrong with her and that she'll never start.
Blume's success with Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. inspired her to write another book, Then Again, Maybe I Won't, which this time deals with Tony Miglione, a boy of the same age of Margaret who is dealing with puberty as well, although his transition from childhood to adulthood has some clearly different paths than does Margaret's.
Due to its frank treatment of sexuality and religion, this book is one of the top 100 most frequently challenged books at American libraries (i.e. books that have been requested to be banned), currently listed at number sixty-two on this list.
In the 1970s Blume experienced very few attempts at banning or censoring her work. According to her, this changed practically overnight after the 1980 presidential election. She stated in an interview that one night a woman phoned her, asking if she had written Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. When Blume replied affirmatively, the woman called her a "Communist" and hung up. Blume joked that she never did figure out if the harasser equated communism with menstruation or religion, the two major concerns in twelve year-old Margaret's life.
Blume's preferred punctuation of the title is Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. with no comma between "there" and "God". While this is incorrect in following the commonly accepted rules of written English, Blume intended this so there was no separation in the story between Margaret and God. This is reflected in both the title of the novel and in the text as well; Blume never puts a comma to separate the word God whenever Margaret addresses him.
- The phrase "I must, I must, I must increase my bust", which Margaret and her friends chant while doing exercises intended to increase breast size, has re-entered popular culture after being originally popular in the 1940s and '50s.
- In the 2006 edition, belted sanitary napkins have been replaced with adhesive sanitary pads.
- Chicago punk rock band The Lawrence Arms wrote a song titled "Are You There, Margaret? It's Me, God." for their 2006 record Oh! Calcutta!.
- In the third season of South Park, the writers included an episode titled " Are You There God? It's Me, Jesus.