Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

by

Judy Blume

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Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Judy Blume's Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Judy Blume

Though Judy Blume spent her childhood thinking up stories in her head, she didn’t aspire to be a writer. Instead, she was raised to be a homemaker, and her mother insisted she get a degree in education just in case she ever had to work. Blume did just that and married a lawyer in 1959 before graduating with her education degree from New York University in 1961. In 1969, she published her first children’s book and continued to write prolifically throughout the 1970s. During this period, she wrote some of her best-known books, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Forever. Forever has been frequently banned since its publication, as it was one of the first young adult novels to portray teen sex as normal. Since the 1980s, Blume’s books have been challenged regularly, mostly due to her books’ frank portrayals of such things as homosexuality, teen sex, masturbation, and in Margaret’s case, menstruation and religion. This led Blume to become an activist against banning books. Blume has been married three times and has several children and grandchildren, several of whom have either inspired Blume’s books or encouraged her to write about certain subjects. With her husband, she runs a nonprofit bookstore in Key West.
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Historical Context of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret deals primarily with two subjects: the role of religion in mid-20th century America, and puberty. Following World War II, families flocked to the suburbs (as Margaret’s does) and many families became regular churchgoers. While mainstream Protestantism represented a large percentage of churchgoers during the postwar years (and the dominant religious voice in the country), other religions were also becoming more mainstream—for instance, the election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960 represented a boost for many American Catholics, and in the 1970s, religions considered “alternative” (like Hinduism) were becoming more popular. This helps explain why Margaret feels such pressure to choose a religion once she moves to the suburbs—her parents, as people who don’t identify as any one religion or attend religious services at all, would’ve been outliers. Schools first began teaching sex ed in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until World War II that the practice became widespread and seen as a social good (soldiers were regularly shown films warning of venereal disease and advising condom use). By 1970, it was common for companies that produce period products (like the fictional Private Lady company in the novel) to produce educational films explaining puberty and menstruation—which, as Margaret is annoyed to discover in the novel, was one way for those companies to advertise their products.

Other Books Related to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Blume has said that she and her mother weren’t especially close when she was a kid, but her mother did get her to read two books that would make an impression on her: Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Blume wrote prolifically through the 1970s and produced some of her most famous works then, including Blubber, Forever, Deenie, and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t (a companion novel of sorts to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret that focuses on male puberty). Since then, authors have published a number of novels targeted at preteen girls that deal specifically with puberty. These include Finally by Wendy Mass, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, and Summer of Brave by Amy Noelle Parks. Other teen novels—many of them intended for slightly older readers—focus on teens navigating their relationship to religion. These include novels like Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord, and Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has regularly been banned in schools or libraries, along with books like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. For a look into the history of sex education films in American schools and sex ed’s changing focus over the years, Robert Eberwein’s nonfiction work Sex Ed: Film, Video, and the Framework of Desire offers a deep dive into the subject.
Key Facts about Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
  • Full Title: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
  • When Written: 1969
  • Where Written: New Jersey, United States
  • When Published: 1970
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel
  • Setting: Farbrook, New Jersey, around 1970
  • Climax: Margaret gets her first period
  • Antagonist: Margaret’s maternal grandparents, peer pressure
  • Point of View: First-Person

Extra Credit for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Just Margaret. In interviews, Judy Blume has said that if she’d known how popular Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was going to get—and how often she’d have to say the title in full over the next 50 years—she would’ve shortened it to just Margaret.

Training Bras. Prior to the mid-20th century, girls Margaret’s age generally didn’t wear bras. The advent of training bras (bras designed to get girls used to wearing a bra, rather than provide support for breast tissue) reflected a societal shift to idealizing a curvier and bustier body type. Though a girl’s first bra is now commonly seen as a rite of passage, training bras have faced opposition since their invention—especially as companies have created bras for increasingly younger girls, some as young as two years old.