12 Empowering Children's Books To Add To Little Girl's Bookshelves

The books we read as children can have a huge impact on the weird humans we eventually become. Our beliefs, aspirations, and morals can all be attributed to the colorful pages we excitedly soaked in during our youth. So, whether you're buying a book for a friend's child, your own child, or for yourself (because why not? We would), make it a piece of literature that sustains and empowers women. Because, well, those little messages go a long way.

Here are 12 children's books we think every young girl should have:

1. Judy Moody - Written by Megan McDonald and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

 

Wearing tiger-print pajama pants on the first of school? We so get it. Judy Moody wasn’t just moody—she was a normal kid who had a lot of feels, and weren’t we all? Nobody sings the third grade blues and inspires individuality better than Judy Moody.

2. Not All Princesses Dress In Pink - Written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple; Illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin 

It's important to know that one can love baseball, roll around in the mud, and ride a bike, all while wearing a sparkly crown. This tribute to girl power encourages young people to break molds and fearlessly be themselves.

3. Madeline - Written and Illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans 

Oh, Madeline. Our favorite fearless french heroine was an outcast and a rebel in all the best ways. She had red hair, a weakness for “bad hats,” and she laughed in the face of tigers and hospitals. Not to mention, she made scars cool. Need we say more?

4. Imogene’s Last Stand - Written by Candace Fleming and Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter 

It’s not often that girls are depicted as having burning passions towards history... But then there’s Imogene, whose first words are “four score and seven years ago." In preschool she fingerpaints a path of the Oregon trail, and by grade school she is saving the historical society from being torn down. So, yeah, we’d want to be her best friend.

5. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon - Written by Patty Lovell and Illustrated by David Catrow 

This is a beautifully illustrated book about a (very) little girl who transforms her flaws into talents. Every little girl should be able to embrace their flaws, as characteristics that set us apart, and make us who we are.

6. The Princess Knight - Written by Cornelia Funke and Illustrated by Kirsten Meyer 

Ah, the classic tale of a princess who doesn’t want to get married, and just wants to become a knight. (We’ve all been there.) We love how this book shakes off the princess-meets-a-prince-marries-him-immediately standard, and instead shows girls they can fight (or joust) for whatever they want, no matter what society tells us. 

7. Matilda Written by Roald Dahl and Illustrated by Quentin Blake

The infamous bookworm and warlock Matilda taught us all a thing or two about the power of reading, pranks, and telekinesis. This classic not only encourages independence and individuality, it gives children power in a world ruled by adults.

8. Rad American Women A-Z - Written by Katie Schatz and Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

This catalogue of inspirational women belongs on every kid’s bookshelf. Alphabetically tackling gender, transgender, economic, and race politics in simple and straight-up terms this book will build a strong feminist foundation at any age.  

9. Harriet The Spy - Written by Louise Fitzhugh 

Harriet wants to be writer and a spy, dresses “like a boy,” and loves tomato sandwiches. Not to mention her best female friend is an aspiring scientist. But all endearingly quirky qualities aside, what we love most about Harriet The Spy is she is just a normal kid, dealing with social pressures in school and issues with her parents.

10. Grace For President - Written by Kelly S. DePucchio and Illustrated by LeUyen Pham 

Grace’s teacher is hanging up pictures of the Presidents when she asks an age-old question: “Where are all the girls?” That’s a helluva question to plant in young people’s minds, and we love any book that encourages young girls to shatter glass ceilings by crashing boy-clubs.

11. Miss Rumphius - Written and Illustrated by Barbara Cooney 

There’s something to be said for the quiet and confident independence this book fosters. Miss Rumphius grows up doing exactly what she wants, with only her personal values and the beauty of the world in mind. There's no mention of societies expectations—just a woman flying solo—and it doesn't get more empowering than that. 

12. The Paper Bag Princess Written by Robert Munsch and Illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Any children's book with a female heroine who tricks a dragon then calls her Prince a bum is alright by us. Now, usually usually wouldn’t encourage name calling, but, well, this Prince sounded like a real jerk and he deserved it. Every little girl should learn that she doesn't have to take anyone’s crap.   

 

Photos via Pinterest, Fablevision, Goodreads, Amazon, Wikipedia, Citylights, Quia, The Wonderist

 

Spiderman's Gwen Stacy Spins Into Her Own Series

In 1973's Spiderman Universe Earth 616, Gwen Stacy dies in the infamous clash between Spider Man and Green Goblin. You would think that 40 years of comic book decay means the iconic character looks too ghastly to resurface, but that isn’t what writer Jason Latour and artists Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi decided. 

Despite being nervous about touching long-gone Gwen, Latour--who grew up idolizing white-male superheroes--realized that if she could escape her death, then she could truly become anything. He also saw his heroine as an important chess piece in the ongoing feminist revamp that will soon take over the comic world.

So from the grave rises Gwen Stacy, Earth-65’s very own radioactive female in her very own new book: Spider-Gwen. In Gwen's latest adventures, she must make time for her femme-fatale band, avoid the usual bad wrap from the Daily Bugle, and war with the newly conceived Vulture. With a new host of enemies and friends, witty-graffiti that slays the bad-guys’ egos, and a killer costume, we are pretty certain that you’ll be as ready to get your copy of Spider-Gwen’s story as we are. 

Image c/o illustrators

10 Books That Made Our Dregs Of Winter Reading List

Winter is here and it's a rough one. And by that we mean it is basically Frozen without the peppy soundtrack. Which makes perfect curl-up-with-a-good-book-and-drink-tea weather. Here at BUST, we have put together ten books to keep you company in this arctic tundra, because there's only so much Netflix we can handle before our eyes melt.

The books range in genre, but all have one thing in common: women. Yay! These books feature ladies from all walks of life, and illustrate their struggles, successes, and historical importance. From how to deal with slut-shaming online or wanting to read a Dickensian-style lesbian romance, there is something here to keep you up at night. In the best way possible, of course.

(1)

$PREAD: This Best of the Magazine That Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution

Edited by Rachel Aimee, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Audacia Ray

(The Feminist Press at CUNY)

$pread, a magazine written by sex workers for sex workers, was published from 2005 to 2011, laying bare the ins and outs of the industry. And the contributors to this anthology include porn stars, prostitutes, phone-sex operators, and exotic dancers of various nationalities, ages, and genders. The book begins with a brief history, then advances into seven explicit parts, with titles like “Workplace,” “Clients,” and “Resistance.” Beyond these chapter headings lie the most popular literary and visual works taken from the folds of $pread, include blow-by-blow details on sex worker relationship, dolla’ management, hooking in the penguin community (seriously!), menses in porno, and my personal favorite—a quickie on proper condom use for the gal on the go.

The stigma associated with sex work and the lack of rights and protections afforded to adult entertainers that are highlighted here will likely enrage you. And as a whole, the collection begs the question: To what degree do we own our own bodies? –Whitney Dwire

(2)

How To Grow Up: A Memoir

By Michelle Tae

(Plume)

Michelle Tea first gained a faithful literary following as a founding member of the spoken word collective Sister Spit, and as a memoirist who tackled her unique life experiences with candor. Her work has always provided an insider’s view of the queer culture of San Francisco, her struggles with addiction, and her time as a prostitute. And, in her new memoir, Tea tells how she finally, at age 40, decided to stop living self-destructively and gained some much-needed wisdom and maturity. Her essays read a bit like a self-help book, offering advice based on past mistakes and stumbles. Among the most compelling sections is her sage chapter on dating, where she laments on how often what feels like love is just a dopamine high, and those who are constantly “falling in love” are “dopamine fiends” who need to gain some perspective. This book is a quick, pleasurable read due both Tea’s humorous and self-deprecating style, as fashion week in Paris. How to Grow Up will have you laughing out loud, and perhaps gaining some insight into your own problems.  –Adrienne Urbanski

(3)

The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

By Adrienne Mayor

(Princeton University Press)

For anyone who thinks Amazons were as mythical as centaurs or sphinxes, this pleasurable book proves that misconception wondrously wrong. Historian Adrienne Mayor’s account of these fabulous real-life superwomen mines archaeology, art, linguistics, literature, and oral history to bring them to life. The ancient Greeks were responsible for glorifying Amazons in Western culture but also for their bad rap as man-eating, one-breasted terrors. These nomadic women came from societies in Central Asia that were so gender-egalitarian, misogynist Greeks couldn’t get their heads around their powerful positions of leadership, so they turned them into monsters. Mayor’s beautifully illustrated book, truly encyclopedic on all things Amazonian, reclaims the historic image of these dauntless figures in the heroic frame they deserve. –Fran Willing 

(4)

ICON

Edited by Amy Scholder

(The Feminist Press at CUNY) 

Based on the idea that the celebrities who resonate most with us also reveal a piece of who we are, this collection of essays features beloved writers sharing their passion for another artist—like Mary Gaitskill (on Linda Lovelace), Kate Zambreno (on Kathy Acker), and Jill Nelson (on Aretha Franklin). Each of the subject is fascinating on her own, but it’s the extra layer—Johanna Fateman talking about her own budding feminism while profiling Andrea Dworkin, or Justin Vivian Bond’s childhood adoration of model Karen Graham—that sets this collection apart. 

Hanne Blank in her contribution writes, “Here is the single most practical thing I learned from MFK Fisher: seduction is not the art of showing someone you want them…Seduction, properly done, is the art of inducing a desirable second part to want you to want them.” She then poignantly observes that until she saw a picture of Fisher, who is thing and blond, she had never considered the privilege of having a certain appearance. Instead, she had subconsciously superimposed herself onto Fisher’s words. Each essay is powerful because it illustrates why we obsess over icons: by vicariously experiencing their worlds, we’re able to picture our lives as iconic in their own right. –Melynda Fuller

(5)

Ugly Girls

By Lindsay Hunter

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 

In Lindsay Hunter’s debut novel, everyone is damaged. Ugly Girls follows toxic best friends Perry and Baby Girl as they skip school, shoplift, take joyrides, and set things on fire. Perry hates her life in a trailer park with her alcoholic mother, Myra. Baby Girl shaved half her head and chose a new name after her older brother’s accident left him with the mind of a child. “Baby Girl wanted her outside to look like how she felt on the inside. Which was Fuck you,” Hunter writes. Meanwhile, Perry’s Fuck you is more secretive.

Perry, Baby Girl, and Myra’s lives are thrown into chaos by the mysterious Jamey, whose presence—first on Facebook, then through texts, then finally, in person—makes each woman realize just how much their looks define them. Perry is pretty; Myra used to be pretty; Baby Girl is ugly. And this matters. Hunter’s characters are complex, vividly drawn, and captivating, and the ending is a real surprise. The book’s frequent focus on Facebook already feels dated, but its core themes of female friendship, mother/daughter relationships, and the price of beauty will always be relevant. –Erika W. Smith 

(6)

The Paying Guest

By Sarah Waters

(Riverhead)

After five long years, Sarah Waters has finally released her sixth novel, The Paying Guest. It’s a highly coifed through back to two of her most beloved previous works of lesbian-centric fiction, Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, in that here the heroine is also down with the V. Known for her deftness with historical fiction, Water sets Guests in the 1922 London, just after the war. Frances Wray and her conventional mother make ends meet by taking in new lodgers, the Barbers, and ambitious and happy young couple. Or are they? Some seriously hot stuff occurs, including a stocking-dropping rollerskating sesh and the sexiest haircut ever to happen on the page. And if that alone isn’t enough to beckon you toward the book, then pick it up for the writing. Waters’ ease and confidence are masterful, and her word choices, arrangements, and suspenseful pacing leave readers begging for more. “They stepped towards each other with nervousness,” she writes, “and the embrace, when it came, felt stiff, even awkward. But then they kissed; and the kiss unfurled, unfolded like a bolt of ripping silk.” See what I mean? It’s almost hard to concentrate on the plot when each sentence is practically candied, like caramel for the eyes. –Whitney Dwire.

(7)

Girl Runner: A Novel

By Carrie Snyder

(HarperCollins) 

“I have outlived everyone I ever loved, and everyone who ever loved me.” This is how 104-year-old protagonist Agenetha “Aggie” Smart begins her story, which is that if a pioneering girl runner. This novel is Carrie Snyder’s fictional take on the 1920 Amsterdam Olympics, the inaugural games for the women’s 800-meter event and the last one for another 32 years after it was decided that women’s bodies were incapable of competing at that distance. But this book isn’t really about running—it’s about the need to escape. We meet Smart as her aging mind struggles to fully remember her life, switching between past and present as if they’ve happening simultaneously. She recalls moments she wishes to forget: family secrets, the downfall of her celebrity, and the child she gave away. Basically, these are the moments that defined her, though she hates to admit it. But while Aggie tries to forget, two strangers come into her life and remind her that no one can really outrun their past, no matter how hard they try. –Shannon Carlin.

(8)

I AM NOT A SLUT: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet

By Leora Tanenbaum

(HarperCollins)

Almost 16 years after the publication of Slut! Growing Up Female With a Bad Reputation, Leora Tanenbaum has written a follow-up book about how the word “slut” has evolved since 1999. And for the most part, the slut-shaming epidemic has gotten worse. Tanenbaum analyzes how tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be used to monitor sexuality amongst today’s teenagers. Although she notes that social media can be useful for activism (and cites anti-street-harassment group Hollaback! as evidence of this), Tanenbaum is highly critical of some of the trends that came from the Web. She also highlights the “Slut-Walk” movement and how it chose to re-appropriate the word slut instead of criticizing its use. Tanenbaum finishes the book with “Do’s and Don’ts for Parents” as well as a “Slut-Shaming Defense Kit,” which offers ways to help readers talk about and combat slut-shaming. Hopefully, her advice will lead young, Internet-savvy women toward a more empowered future. –Jacqueline Sheppard. 

(9)

Did She Kill Him? A Torrid True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and Murder in Victorian England

By Kate Colquhoun

(Overlook)

 Thanks to the title of this true-crime tale, we already know the fate of the central character’s husband. And this gripping account of the death of James Maybrick and the subsequent trial of his wife Florence digs deeply into their famous 1889 case. In her highly readable retelling, author Kate Colquhoun demonstrates both the extensive research that when into this work as well as the skill she possesses to paint a compelling portrait of a tumultuous time in British society.

Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick was 41 when he married 17-year-old Florence, and both misrepresented their money situation.  Debt, infidelity, and James’ longstanding hypochondria (and habitual self-medicating) marred their marriage. Wills were changed and divorce was sought before James died from what appeared to be purposeful poisoning. The family’s servants and James’ brothers suspected the young widow, and her trials drew the attention of the nation. Colquhoun deftly conveys this sensational story with precision. Weaving together narrative threads regarding chemistry, contemporary literature, changing media, the women’s movement, prison reform, and England’s justice system, she also successfully maintains a true page-turner pace throughout. –Christine Femia

(10)

Get In Trouble: Stories

By Kelly Link

(Random House)

The stories in Get in Trouble are captivating because they teeter on the edge of fantasy. The collection’s first story, “The Summer People,” begins as so many tales of teenage longing do, with the young protagonist feeling there’s no escape from her small town and family obligations. But then there’s escape from her small town and family obligations. But then there’s something surprising, sinister, and magical about the circumstances that tie the main character to her home.

It’s hard not to imagine very real celebrities in the roles of the two stars who fell in love on the set of a vampire romance movie in “I Can See Right Through You.” But the genius of the story is how a supernatural element is suggested, then wiped away, then all but confirmed. Author Kelly Link’s description’s final story “Light,” which tells of a Flordia town overrun with hungry iguanas, and a woman whose second shadow eventually becomes her twin brother. Link’s collection is the perfect read for anyone who has ever argues that fantasy can’t be literary. –Molly Horan.

 

Images c/o: Amazon and Disney

6 Amazing 18th Century Lady Authors Who Aren't Jane Austen

 

Real talk: Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and George Eliot have monopolized the 18th and 19th century "groundbreaking female author" title. While we greatly respect their hustle, it should be noted that kickass female authors were around even earlier. We've put together a list of these women for your reading pleasure—women who set the foundation for the great works we know today and made it slowly more acceptable for women to be writers. Even though they received some uncool lady-bashing from later female novelists (lookin' at you, Willa Cather), it's time to reinstate them into our dialogue.

Frances Burney

Most likely the inspiration behind Jane Austen’s stylistic choices, Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist, and playwright whose works were hugely popular during her life, but whose mention would probably elicit a “who?” from most people today. Her many works include four novels: Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer. While all of her works richly explore the politics of female identity. Evelina might seem especially familiar: a young woman of lower ranking nobility attracts the attention of two men. One is a flirt, who tries to worm his way into the lady’s good graces, and with the other there is a shared attraction, but they struggle with misinformation and class barriers. Yeah, we'd say Jane was a fan.  

Aphra Behn

Regarded as one of the first novelists, Aphra Behn was not just an author, but also a spy for the British Crown. She, along with Delarivier Manley and Eliza Haywood, made up a group of female writers called  “The fair triumvirate of wit” (which, we must say, sounds like an awesome band name). Behn wrote and wrote in order to support herself, and at the time of her death she'd completed 19 plays—not to mention her poetry, translation, and novels. Unfortunately, despite her success, Behn died in poverty and was largely ignored by literary critics due to her vulgarity and “masculine” prose. She has some defenders, thankfully; to quote Virginia Woolf:

“All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds... Behn proved that money could be made by writing at the sacrifice, perhaps, of certain agreeable qualities; and so by degrees writing became not merely a sign of folly and a distracted mind but was of practical importance” 

Delarivier Manley

Another member of the literary triumvirate, Delarivier Manley was mostly regarded for her political pamphlets. She was also well known as an author and playwright, and wrote satirical works about the Whigs and her husband. Her personal life was almost as novel as her written work: she was married to a bigamist, roomies with the former mistress of Charles II, and expelled by the duchess for flirting with her son. Manley offended people with her personality, her marriage, her quarrels, her obesity and her politics. In other words, she was just too much of a HBIC for people to handle. Many female authors have been (thankfully) campaigning to reestablish her importance in literary canon.

 

Eliza Haywood

The third part of the triumvirate, Eliza Haywood was something of the Nora Robers/E.L. James of her day. That's not knocking her, but rather showing how widely she was read during her lifetime and how much she wrote (over 70 works!). She is one of the founders of the English novel, writing works with both titillating romance and women’s rights issues that involved women who were sexually free. Her first novel, Love in Excess: Or, The Fatal Enquiry, gives the fallen woman character a positive portrait and does not condemn her for not being "virginal." "Fantomina; or Love in a Maze" is a short story about a woman who assumes several roles in order to seduce a man, who smirks as she fools the idiot time and time again. Feminist scholars have been bringing up Haywood’s work to showcase early transgressive female writing.

Maria Edgeworth

Edgeworth was an Anglo-Irish writer, whose life in Ireland had a profound impact on her political views and progressive ideology.  In her work she tended to address the issues of sex, gender, class, and even race. She advocated for equal education of boys and girls and for women to marry based on mutual affection; she said that it was better to be an old maid than to be in a bad marriage. She greatly believed in the importance of the individual and thought middle class women should be more politically involved. Her novel Belinda has one of the earliest depictions of an interracial marriage (though this was omitted in later publications). Towards the end of her life, she helped provide welfare for the poor and those affected by the Irish Potato Famine, and was made an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy.

 

Mary Wollstonecraft

This should be a familiar name for anyone who has taken a Women’s Studies class (the vast majority of our readership, perhaps?). Mostly known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Wollstonecraft was not just a philosopher, but wrote two feminist novels: Mary: A Fiction and Maria:, or the Wrongs of Woman. Both criticize marriage and the position that it inflicts upon women. In Mary, the heroine is forced into a financial marriage, but fulfills herself emotionally with two romantic friendships: one with a man and another with a woman. Maria, unfortunately, was published unfinished due to Wollstonecraft’s death, but is probably her most radical work. It features a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband who finds fulfillment in an affair with a fellow roommate. Her daughter, Mary Shelley, would also come to be a groundbreaking writer in her own right. She wrote a little book about a man who creates a monster, maybe you've heard of it?

Images c/co JASNA, Wikipedia

#TBT: A Very Special Judy Blume Exclusive From Our BUST Vault

We’ve dug up a special throwback treat from our 1997 Spring/Summer issue: Tori Galore dishes with Blume about exploring feminism from married life in the Jersey ‘burbs during the budding second wave, childhood recall and more.

Happy birthday Judy! We’re so glad you were born to write the tomes of our youth.

...

Nervous? You bet. But different from meeting-a-dishy-actor-or-famous-rock-star nervous. Its more personal, slightly vulnerable—like the nervous I get when meeting some-guy-I-really-like's mother for the first time. Except in this case the mother in question has known me longer and more intimately than any man. She saw me safely through puberty my first bra, first period, first kiss. Omnipresent, silently winking, she was loyal and kept secrets. A true friend. So when Judy Blume opened the door and welcomed me into her home, it was all I could do not to give her a big hug and thank her. Is it me, or do we immediately lapse into an age-old gal-pals vibe, figuratively lying on the lime shag rug in my old bedroom, on our stomachs, gabbing. At 58 years old, she looks fucking amazing—everything I imagined and yet not what I expected from someone of my mother's generation, which I strain to remind myself of, because she was one of my best friends growing up. She was a best friend to all of us girls. 



Did you consciously set out to fill a void in young girls' literature? 
I set out to do nothing. I was desperately in need of something, but I didn't know what it was. I was married when I was a junior in college. I had two children—a son and a daughter—before I was 25. Many young women growing up in the '50s did that. Everybody didn't go cuckoo, but I think I would have if I hadn't found this thing. I loved having babies, but I had to have something else. The women's movement was very late coming to suburban New Jersey. I didn't know anyone who worked, but I still had a deep, personal need to be involved in creative work. That's what was missing from my life. 

Why do you think you gravitated towards writing about pubescent girls and not women your age? 
Because that is what I knew best. That is what was real to me. That is what came back easily. You don't decide what you're going to write about, it just comes. I had almost total recall of my childhood. 

That's clear in your style—the nuances and details are so exact. 
When I was young, it seemed to me that there was every possibility that I could do or be anything. It wasn't that anyone told me I couldn't, it was the shift in my life—some-where after 15—from identifying with my father, who made everything seem possible, who adored me and never told me I couldn't do anything. He was the parent who was fun, and he was the nurturer; he took more care of me when I was sick than my mother did. I didn't want to be in the kitchen. I wanted to be the hero, the cowgirl, the detective. 

What changed at 15? 
I think I began to identify more with my mother when I got into the whole dreamy adolescent boy thing with fantasies of growing up and getting married and having babies. I replaced my save-the-world fantasies with romantic ones. Maybe the romantic fantasy is the downfall of the young woman, I don't know. 


Was the idea of writing about being a woman in her late twenties, married with two children, just too terrifying, too close to home? 
It never occurred to me. I wasn't ready for that until I wrote Wifey. That took a long time because I was living that life. I wasn't ironic about it. It was, "Oh shit, this is what I wanted and now I'm stuck with it!" What do you do with that? I made these choices. I listened to my mother. I should have listened to my father. You know, writing saved me. It gave me a life, a sense of myself. In the context of what was happening in the '70s, everybody was free to do all these things. I had never done anything, I never had an adolescent rebellion, my brother was so rebellious that my role in the family was to make everybody happy. I'm still fighting that. 

Did Wifey rock the world of those around you? 
I got zillions of letters from women. It made a lot of men very upset. I left my husband and suburban New Jersey and I moved to Santa Fe. Then I wrote Wifey

If you hadn't left, do you think you, could have written it? 
I never could have written it when I was still married. I think my ex-husband handled it brilliantly. I remember giving it to him, and saying, "If there's anything in here that really bothers you, I'll change it." 



Before it was published!? 
I think so. And he didn't say anything. He stayed out of it. I think that was really very smart. I admire him for that. Wifey was my coming of age. I thought, "I'm not just this twelve year old." It was time for me to deal with this other me; this woman... 

...who had never been explored. 
Right, and this life that I was raised by my mother to live and then I didn't understand why I wasn't happy. So it was a very freeing experience for me, very necessary in my evolution. 

Were you aware at the time that junior high students all over America were highlighting the passages of Forever that contained sex and passing them around study hall? 
Yes. Good. Well, what did you think? 

I was overwhelmed and stunned. 
Did you feel betrayed?

It was a little scary. I was maybe 13 and, sexually, a late bloomer. What you were describing was so out of my context. Yeah, I probably did.

Wow. 

I think it's unfair for us (my generation of women) to want you to come through for us. 
I'd love to come through for you. I love your generation, my twenty and early thirty-somethings, because that's who grew up reading my books. You're my most loyal readers! I meet you at book signings and it's so unbelievably sweet. These young women come up to me and they look at me and I look at them and then we start to cry. 

The mention of your name elicits a visceral reaction from my generation, both women and men. 
I can't wait until you're all running the world. 

There are going to be statues of you all over the place. Who were your female heroes growing up? 
I don't know that I had them. Who did I know about who was out there doing things? I didn't know any women who wrote. I knew movie stars and stage actresses. I wanted to be Margaret O'Brien dancing the unfinished dance; I wanted to be Esther Williams—I wanted to swim underwater and smile at the same time. 

What about the women around you? 
My aunt was a teacher and then a principal of a school. That was something back then. She was married but never had children. She was independent. Miss Fae, who I thought was very glamorous, worked for my father, a dentist, for 30 years. She never married. She took me to the ballet. She had a Roadster with a rumble seat. She smoked and could tell dirty stories with the guys. She seemed exciting to me. But the reality was that she lived in a little house with her widowed sister and her parents. 

She must have been a pretty powerful alternative to your mother. 
But my mother had the husband and the house and the children. My mother did not like it when she came and taught me how to put on mascara for the prom, because my mother never used mascara. Miss Fae drank, and my mother never drank. My mother thought that my father enjoyed being with Miss Fae a lot, maybe too much. 

Sounds like we're becoming a generation of Miss Faes. We're independent and confident. We have our own careers, smoke cigars, tell dirty jokes and throw our heads back when we laugh. And we're living alone. 
So was Miss Fae. Maybe that's what I should write a book about. There's an idea. 

So, does a woman have to choose between The Mother, Miss Fae and The Principal, or can she be all three women at the same time? 
You can be all three women in your lifetime. I'm not sure you can be all three women at the same time. Can you have it all? Yes. Can you have it all at the same time? I don't think so. Maybe you can if it all works right. But you can live many lives. 

Blume and I discuss her marital history. Married sixteen years to a nice, sensible, Jewish doctor as her mother had prescribed, she then divorced and married the next man she met—on a plane—only weeks later. She sums up those years as incredibly stupid, having put not just herself through four years of hell, but her kids as well, for which she can never forgive herself. At the conclusion of her second marriage, and with the help of therapy, she learned to appreciate her children and her work. She resigned herself to the notion that, at 41, she would never have that intimate relationship she had always chased. A couple of months after her second divorce, she was fixed up on a blind date. On their third date he moved in. They have been together seventeen years. 

Do you have any regrets? 
I was never single. I think it would have been wonderful to have been single when I was young, and have a chance to figure it all out, but then maybe I never would have figured anything out. Instead I just rushed in. I gave much more thought to my first marriage partner than I did to my second or third. My second was a disaster, and my third is heaven. It's everything that one could wish for. I get by in life a lot on instinct. I can't say that I recommend it. 

Do you consider yourself a feminist? 
Yes, I am a feminist. That doesn't mean I don't like men, I've always liked men. We are different, I accept that. Sooo different. But it's interesting to figure out those differences. I began to think for myself somewhere in my late twenties and thirties, I began to question this way of life, this authoritarian male society. I accepted it throughout my marriages, I never tried to get my husband to change. Fear of Flying was a very, very important book to me. 

How? 
I was becoming aware. My husband blamed it for my unhappiness—which is simplistic, to say the least—the way many men blamed Wifey

When are you happiest? 
It's hard for me to say when I'm happiest because I always feel happy. When am I least happy—that's easier for me. I'm unhappy when my kids are unhappy. I have a friend who has said to me, "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child." And I think that is absolutely true.

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