image: screencap Amanda Palmer in her video for "Judy Blume," directed by Jason Webley

Amanda Palmer Celebrates the Painful Beauty and Striking Relevance of the Work of Judy Blume

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If you’re looking to have a good weep about the beauty and importance of art and the female voice today, look no further than this new video singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer released of her song, “Judy Blume,” in honor of the author’s 80th birthday.

Judy Blume, author of such YA classics as Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blubber, and Forever, turns 80 years old today. To celebrate, Palmer has released a new video, directed by longtime friend, musician, and collaborator Jason Webley, of her song “Judy Blume,” which she’s been performing live for years.

In the video, readers, some famous (like her husband, Neil Gaiman) and some not, are gathered in a room each holding, reading, and reacting to a Judy Blume book. They surround Palmer, who sits at a piano playing the song with a melancholy beauty that gives us a glimpse of the emotional teenager she must have been years ago.

One of my favorite lyrics, however, is one in which she talks about who she is now. Who we all are now, as adults: Judy, I can’t believe sometimes that I’m an adult / and the girls like I was think that I have this shit figured out.

You never stop needing Judy Blume, even when you become an adult. It’s just that how you relate to her work changes.

In addition to releasing the above video today, Palmer also wrote a piece about Blume for The Huffington Post, in which she elaborates not only on Blume’s influence on her own work, but on Blume’s current relevance.

She talks about the current moment we’re in, saying that “Women are currently scaring the bejesus out of people by doing something very non-dramatic and mundane: Telling It Like It Is.” She then goes into the fact that, when she was a young artist, and people would ask her about her influences, her list was entirely male, and usually people she named, at least in part, to make herself sound cool or edgy.

But in her heart, she know that Judy Blume’s work was as much of an influence on her as anything else. Yet, for some reason, she kept this very female voice to herself, much in the same way as she later noticed artists like Lady Gaga doing, citing male-only influences who “sound cooler…” by virtue of being male?

Palmer writes:

“Only in hindsight could I trace back the doors and windows that Blume propped open and permanently unshuttered in the fragile house of my mind that I was constructing. She was the silent architect of my pre-adolescent belief system, breaking the ground and quietly influencing the unshakeable infrastructure onto which all of those impressively cool Cure and Nick Cave posters would later be thumbtacked and Scotch-taped.

In the punk/goth songs I mostly listened to as a teen, men sang about all manner of topics ― love lost, suicidal thoughts, anarchy, faithless women. But in Blume’s books, which predated all of that, masturbation existed and wasn’t naughty or demonized. Periods and wet dreams and tampons and boobs were funny and messy and embarrassing and, crucially, totally normal. She told it like it was.”

While I read several of her other books, for me it was all about Blubber. As someone who was a fat girl her whole life, the fact that Judy Blume shone such an unflinching spotlight on a fat girl being mercilessly bullied by her peers, and had another character be an onlooker and be forced to deal with that, meant a lot to me. I felt like a book (and its author) was standing up for me, and I was grateful.

Happy birthday, Judy Blume! Thank you for inspiring us, as well as other artists we love! Thank you for making us feel seen and heard.

Now, I’ll turn to all of you, my lovely TMS friends! What’s your favorite Judy Blume book?

(featured image: screencap)

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.