Judy Blume

Photo © Elena Seibert

NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year


“Writing changed my life,” says author and literary icon Judy Blume. “Nobody told me I could or should write, but the stories were always there.” For five decades, Blume’s stories have captured the imaginations of millions of readers. Some of her most popular titles, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Blubber, are considered coming-of-age classics. Blume’s young adult novels were also among the first to tackle puberty, bullying, religion, and other controversial themes, helping to revolutionize an entire genre. Her fiction for adults has received critical acclaim as well, appearing multiple times at the top of The New York Times Best Seller list.

However, Blume’s candid stories for younger audiences weren’t celebrated by everyone. Conservative individuals and groups frequently decried and even banned Blume’s books in schools and libraries. “I knew you didn’t need to read the book in order to go to the school while waving the book in the air and demanding that it be removed,” she says. Though her works met fierce opposition, Blume found allies within the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). She soon became a staunch champion of free speech for writers, educators, and librarians. “Actually doing something and speaking up made me feel stronger,” says Blume. “Thanks to the NCAC, I didn’t feel alone anymore.”

For every opponent who’s sought to censor her, Blume has gained legions of fans and inspired generations of readers with her honest storytelling. Her 29 books have sold over 85 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 30 languages. She’s received over 90 literary awards and was named a Library of Congress Living Legend. Her works are in development for TV and film, a testament to her writing’s crossover power and influence in pop culture.

Blume published what she says will be her final novel, In the Unlikely Event, in 2015, yet the profound impact she’s made on American literature is indisputable. She continues to be a prominent defender of free speech and serves on the board of several advocacy and literary organizations, including the NCAC and Authors Guild. She also founded Books and Books Key West, a full-service nonprofit bookstore, where she works four days a week. But what’s most satisfying for Blume is meeting and receiving letters from the people she’s touched through her timeless narratives. “There’s no greater reward for a writer,” she says, “than having readers who remember what you’ve written.”