My mother and father were stretched out on the floor, hooking a rug—Jamie’s latest design. She paints the canvas and the three of us put in the colors. Hooking rugs is very easy and lots of fun but I wasn’t sure what Michael would think and for a minute I was sorry I hadn’t asked them to turn on the TV and just sit there.
     ‘Michael,’ I said, ‘I’d like you to meet my parents.’ Then, ‘Mom…Dad…this is Michael Wagner.’
     My father stood up and he and Michael shook hands. Mom pushed her glasses up on her head so she could get a good look at him. She can see only close up when she’s wearing them.
     Michael cleared his throat and looked around. ‘This is really something,’ he said.
     My mother was pleased.  She said, ‘Thanks…we like it too.’
     I have to explain about our house. It’s very ordinary on the outside but on the inside it’s really something, like Michael said. All the walls are painted white and are hung with a million of Jamie’s paintings and tapestries which are all done in bright, beautiful colors. Her artwork is not your everyday twelve-year-old’s. She is what is called a gifted child. When you combine my mother’s plants with Jamie’s artwork you don’t need anything else—our furniture is very plain and it’s all kind of beige so that you don’t notice it, which is the whole idea.
     Jamie came tearing down the stairs then, yelling, ‘Is he here yet?  Did I miss him?’ When she saw Michael she blushed. ‘Oh…he’s here.’

from Forever (Bradbury Press)

In the spirit of Banned Books Month, I checked out Forever from my local library, where it sat serenely in Teen Fiction for all the world to see. I read it on a gray morning, and was transported back to the long gray morning of my adolescence, when Judy Blume was my encyclopedia, older sister, and solace.

Here are some of the words in Forever: fucking, come, abortion, balls. There is sex on a bathroom floor, a handjob on a ski weekend, a penis named Ralph. In light of these, I suppose it’s unsurprising that parents and non-parents across America have lobbied vigorously to pry this book out of the hands of enthralled youth since 1975.

Then again, I have to think that the crusaders, if they read Forever at all (or Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? or Then Again, Maybe I Won’t), weren’t very good readers. Or that they were reading in such a fury of indignation that they were blind to the ideal circumstances of teen sexuality in this novel. Observe the passage above, where Katherine introduces her new boyfriend to her parents—that’s what I call a touching familial tableau. Apart from her lauded talent for writing exactly the books that teens want to read about periods and yearnings and sex, Judy Blume is a master of capturing domestic details.

A supremely secure young lady, a decent young man (Ralph and all), involved parents, strong nuclear family, protected sex after months of earnest discussion, college next fall. This is 2012, and there are teenage girls who have babies in bathroom stalls. Forget banning; Forever—the edition with the foreword on AIDS, of course—should be distributed by P.E. teachers along with the bewildering pamphlets about tampons.