This 1970 Judy Blume book opens with one of Margaret Ann Simon's many talks to God. "Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret. We're moving today. I'm so scared, God. I've never lived anywhere but here."
She goes on, telling God of her fears. What if she hates her school? What if everybody hates her?
Are You There God? It's me, Margaret begins with Margaret's family moving from a New York apartment to a house in New Jersey This comes as a complete surprise to her.
She usually knows about important
family decisions. She thinks they are leaving the city because of her
grandmother Simon, who, according to Margaret's mother, has too much influence on Margaret.
As they are unpacking at their new house, Margaret meets her first new friend and neighbor, Nancy Wheeler. Nancy already knows Margaret's name and that she is in the sixth grade.
She soon meets two of Nancy's best friends, Gretchen and Janie. The four girls form their own secret 'club', and decide to meet once each week. As they are discussing which day to hold their meetings, Gretchen says that Tuesdays and Thursdays are out, as she has to go to Hebrew school on those days. Janie asks Margaret if she goes to Hebrew school. She says that she doesn't, and that she doesn't go to Sunday school, either, as she is "not any religion". Janie asks what her parents are, and Margaret answers, "nothing".
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She explains that her father was Jewish and her mother was Christian. Her mother's parents "didn't want a Jewish son-in-law", and never accepted him. Margaret's parents had eloped. Her grandmother Simon wasn't happy about having a Christian daughter-in-law either, but she did accept the situation. She and Margaret are very close. Margaret adores her.
The girls are envious that she does not have to go to either Sunday school or Hebrew school, and think it's romantic that her parents eloped. But now they are questioning her how she will know if she should join the Y or the Jewish Community Center. Nancy declares that everybody belongs to one or the other.
As if worrying about when her breasts were going to grow and when she was going to get her period wasn't enough, now she had to decide on a religion!
Her parents do not practice any religion at all, and had told her she could decide for herself what she wanted to do when she's older. She never thought it would be this soon!
Complaints include "sexually offensive and amoral", "profane, immoral, and offensive", as well as "anti-Christian behavior".
The school board in Elk River reversed its decision to restrict the book to students who had written permission from their parents, when the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union got involved and sued them in 1983.
Author Judy Blume says that one night a woman called her and asked if she had written Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. When she told her she had, the woman called her a communist. (Read more here.)
This book covers issues that every young girl faces as she is growing up. It's ridiculous to try to keep books such as this from them. It's certainly not going to stop them from being concerned about the changes they are going through.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret can be a great comfort to girls transitioning from a child into a young woman. Perhaps it can answer questions that they are reluctant to ask.