Choosing for Herself: Are You There God?

In case you haven't read this classic of American literature, I won't spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that in a rather happy turn of events, Margaret changes her mind. She does talk to God again, with the same sweet certainty that he is indeed there, and has been all along. I'm not sure, but I think Margaret Simon is the girl who taught me how to pray.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret has been a subject of controversy and a target of censorship since it was first published in 1970, although some of Blume's subsequent books have generated even more controversy, taming some of the backlash against Margaret and her story. It has been hard to tell what has been more upsetting to the would-be censors -- the frank talk about menstruation, or the idea that children can discover their own path to God.

The book was republished this month in a new edition, and no doubt the voices for and against it will again weigh in on whether we should let our children read it, and if so, under what circumstances. Like Margaret's Christian and Jewish grandparents, the fans and detractors of Blume will again do battle over the souls of the children. And like Margaret's Christian and Jewish grandparents, neither side will think to ask the children. In that sense, this sweet little book does have a subversive message. If the 11 year-old readers of the world meet Margaret, they might do as she did, and think for themselves. Imagine the outcome! They might find God.


Beth Davies-Stofka teaches courses on comparative religion and the philosophy of religion. She has also been an online columnist and critic and contributes regularly to the Patheos site.

4/30/2010 4:00:00 AM
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