Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.
The perennially best-selling author Judy Blume is a rare phenomenon in children’s literature. Almost seventy million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her young fans pass around her books and compare notes, cram her mailbox with up to two thousand letters a month, and buy her books with great fervor. At the same time, her books are frequently subject to censorship. Blume’s works are characterized by emotional and sexual candor, total empathy with the concerns of childhood, and a direct colloquial tone, giving her readers the sense that she knows all their secrets.
Judy Blume was born on February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Esther (Rosenfeld) and Rudolph Sussman, a dentist. When Judy was in third grade, she moved with her mother and her older brother David to Miami Beach, where the climate would help David recuperate from a kidney infection. Her father, to whom Blume was especially close, stayed behind in New Jersey, running his practice.
Blume has described her childhood home as culturally Jewish rather than religious. Her father had six brothers and sisters, almost all of whom died while Judy was growing up, and she has said, “a lot of my philosophy came from growing up in a family that was always sitting shiva.”
She graduated from New York University in 1960 with a B.A. in education. She married lawyer John M. Blume in 1959, the same year her father died. Her daughter Randy Lee was born in 1961, and son Lawrence Andrew in 1963. She divorced Blume in 1975, moved to Princeton, New Jersey, and later lived in London, England. In 1976, she married physicist Thomas A. Kitchens and moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico. She divorced her second husband in 1979 and moved to New York in 1981. In 1987, Blume married writer George Cooper.
Blume’s Beginnings as a Writer
Blume began writing after her children started nursery school in the mid-1960s. Although she had published two short stories, she received as many as six rejection slips a week for two and a half years before Reilly and Lee accepted her picture book, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo (1969). Her next book, Iggie’s House (1970), was written in the course of a writing class she took at New York University.