‘It’s so much worse’: Children’s author Judy Blume condemns books censorship in the US

The novelist, whose book ‘Forever’ was recently removed from school districts in Florida, spoke with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg

Eoghan O'Donnell
Monday 03 April 2023 12:28 BST
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Philip Pullman addresses controversial Roald Dahl edits

Author Judy Blume has said that book intolerance in America “is back so much worse” than before.

Her comments come in response to Blume’s novel Forever being one of 80 books banned in a Florida school district last month, over the book's explorations of sexuality.

Blume’s stories caused much controversy in the US at the height of book censorship in the 1980s.

Her 1970 novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was banned as it included characters discussing the menstrual cycle, while 1973’s Deenie was removed from shelves because of Blume’s teenage girl characters engaging in masturbation.

The author, whose books have sold an estimated 90 million copies, is worried about increasing intolerance towards literature. She also scoffed at the recent censoring of the Roald Dahl stories.

In an interview on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (2 April), Blume said: “I came through the Eighties when book banning was really at its height. And it was terrible. And then libraries and schools began to get policies in place, and we saw a falling off of the desire to censor books.

“Now, it is back, it is back much worse – this is in America. It is back so much worse than it was in the Eighties.”

Blume believes the problem is worsening “because it’s become political”.

The writer also recently spoke in an interview with Variety about the rewriting of the Dahl books.

“I think if Roald Dahl was around, you would be hearing what he thinks about that,” she said. “What he is, whatever he’s accused of being, there’s a lot of truth there. But the books are the books. Kids still love the books, and they love them for the way he wrote them. I don’t believe in [rewriting].”

Roald Dahl

The debate over cultural sensitivity is ongoing in the US and the UK: campaigners are looking to protect children and young people from stereotypes, while critics complain that revisions risk eroding the power of the original texts and prevent readers from seeing the world as it is.

The Florida House voted on 31 March to extend prohibitions on teaching sexual orientation and gender identity until the eighth grade, fuelling gender debate in the US.

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