Author Judy Blume accepts her award during the 15th Annual Glamour Magazine "Women of the Year" awards at the American Museum of Natural History.

Author Judy Blume accepts her award during the 15th Annual Glamour Magazine "Women of the Year" awards at the American Museum of Natural History.

Author Judy Blume is beloved by many readers — young and old. Her best-selling books include some classics for young readers, including “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Blubber.” Her young adult fiction was some of the first to address subjects that other writers avoided, like sex and religion. Her latest novel is for adults and just came out in paperback. It takes place in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Blume grew up. The 78-year-old writer says this was the novel she was born to write – but it will also likely be her last. Diane talks with the novelist about writing and connecting with readers.

Guests

  • Judy Blume best-selling author of 29 books, including the young-adult fiction, "Are You there God? It's Me Margaret" and "Forever"

Live Video

Read An Excerpt

Excerpted from In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume Copyright © 2015 by Judy Blume. Excerpted by permission of Vintage. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

In the Unlikely Event by wamu885

Book List: What Judy Blume Is Reading

What Judy Blume Loves To Read - The Diane Rehm Show

Author Judy Blume and her husband, George Cooper, recently opened an independent bookstore in Key West. Ahead of our May 31 show, we asked Judy about some of her favorite books, what she's reading now and the books she remembers from childhood. What Judy Blume Is Reading Now: "The Atomic Weight of Love" by Elizabeth J.

Transcript

  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In the early 1950s, three planes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey, over a period of several months. More than 100 people died and the unusual events transformed the town. Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth during that time. Her latest novel just out in paperback is based on some of her memories of what happened, as well as archival research. The book is titled "In the Unlikely Event." Judy Blume joins me in the studio.

  • 11:07:32

    MS. DIANE REHMYou can also see live video of our conversation by going to drshow.org. You can call us, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Judy Blume, it's great to see you.

  • 11:07:57

    MS. JUDY BLUMEThank you. It's such an honor to be here. You have no idea. I feel like it's the culmination of my professional life.

  • 11:08:05

    REHMOh, my goodness. Aren't you lovely?

  • 11:08:07

    BLUMEI do.

  • 11:08:10

    REHMBut I don't want it to be the end of your professional life and yet, you've said that this may be your last novel. Tell me why you're feeling that way.

  • 11:08:23

    BLUMEWell, it took me five years to do this book. I'm 78 years old. I don't know. I want to have fun and writing isn't always fun. You know what? I said this after "Summer Sisters" so nobody believes me. I said, I'm never doing it again and then I said to my husband, George, will I be okay? I don't want to be a bag lady. And he said, you'll be okay. You don't have to do it again. And then, I had to do this. I had to do it.

  • 11:08:57

    BLUMEIf something like that happened to me again, of course I would do it. But I don't want to -- I don't want that five years. I'm so happy now waking up in the morning. I look up and I say, thank you. I don't have to write today.

  • 11:09:15

    REHMAnd you have a bookstore.

  • 11:09:18

    BLUMEWell, I don't -- thank you, I don't have to write today and instead, I can go to the bookstore and have a really good time.

  • 11:09:25

    REHMNow, you and your husband opened that bookstore how long ago?

  • 11:09:30

    BLUMEI think it was the end of January. But, you know, it's a long story. It's not that we really thought about opening a bookstore. We had been badgering Mitchell Kaplan, who owns Books and Books in Miami, for five years. Key West is a town of many writers, many artists, and we had no bookstore. No bookstore, except, you know, one that sells, what do we call it, older books and remainder books. And we needed a bookstore. And Mitchell said, I want to, I want to, I want to. And finally, he said, I can't. I can't do it. And but if...

  • 11:10:14

    REHMSo you said, we...

  • 11:10:16

    BLUMEBut if you and George out a way to do it...

  • 11:10:16

    REHMYeah, exactly.

  • 11:10:18

    BLUMEHe said, I'll partner with you.

  • 11:10:20

    REHMOh, that's terrific.

  • 11:10:21

    BLUMEAnd so we did and we did and we do and it is so exciting.

  • 11:10:26

    REHMAnd I'm so happy for you.

  • 11:10:29

    BLUMEThank you.

  • 11:10:29

    REHMNow, I want to get to the plot of this book because I gather it's really something you lived through.

  • 11:10:40

    BLUMEYou know, I lived through -- was I there, yes. I was 14 years old, the winter. It all happened in 60 days so I was -- 58 days, actually. I was there. I was in 8th grade. But was I like my characters who are all fictional? No. I wasn't deeply involved. I mean, or maybe I was. Maybe I was.

  • 11:11:07

    REHMSomewhere inside...

  • 11:11:09

    BLUMEI must've been because...

  • 11:11:09

    REHM...you were deeply involved.

  • 11:11:11

    BLUMEYeah, I buried this story for 40-something -- no, way longer than that, how many years, who knows, when I was 14. 1952 I was 14.

  • 11:11:22

    REHMSo talk about what happened.

  • 11:11:25

    BLUMEWhat happened was that -- I can tell you about the first crash. I was in the car. It was a Sunday afternoon in the middle of December, just before Christmas. I was with my parents and my best friend and we were doing the Sunday afternoon dinner, movie, whatever it was, when news came over the radio that a plane had crashed less than two blocks from my junior high school. Now, it was Sunday so we weren't at school.

  • 11:12:01

    BLUMEAnd I can just remember looking at my friend and thinking and talking. What I really remember is my father saying, I have to get back. And my father, who was a dentist, knew that he would be needed to identify victims at the morgue. And that was never spoken of again in my house that I remember.

  • 11:12:27

    REHMWow.

  • 11:12:27

    BLUMEBut I'm quite sure that no adult ever spoke to us, not at school and not at home, or to any of my friends. And so it happened. It was a fluke, you know. We didn't fly around then the way we do now. Fly -- I had never flown. And so, yes, I remember all of the -- I remember what happened. I don't remember or I have buried how I felt about it.

  • 11:13:00

    REHMBut yet, how you may have felt about it has come through in the characters you've written. I mean, there is a scene in this book as one of -- as the first plane goes down that is so heart wrenching. And yet, Judy Blume, there were two more crashes within those 58 days. What in the...

  • 11:13:36

    BLUMEYes, which is crazy, right?

  • 11:13:36

    REHMCrazy.

  • 11:13:37

    BLUMEI mean, imagine if that happened today. We would be on purple terror alert or whatever. But there was no TV news then. We had TV, but no newscasts.

  • 11:13:51

    REHMSure.

  • 11:13:53

    BLUMESo we didn't come home from school. We weren't overwhelmed by it. The newspaper -- it was up to the newspapermen and the photographers to let people know about it. But I'm not sure I read the paper then. I don't remember ever reading about it, and yet I knew. And I don't want to scare your listeners here because the book is about characters and it's fictional and there's joy and love and hope.

  • 11:14:24

    REHMAbsolutely.

  • 11:14:25

    BLUMENevertheless, the background is, if you can call it background, these three crashes. The second crash, I remember very well. I don't know how I remember, but I knew that it just missed the girl's high school. We had two high schools in our town, sex segregated. And the girls' high school, it was the end of the school day. The plane was piloted by a young man, a pilot, with a lot of experience in flying who had grown up in Elizabeth. I'm convinced that he knew that was Battin High School, that he did everything in his power to get over that school because it looked like he was coming in right through the windows.

  • 11:15:13

    BLUMEAnd it was terrible weather. It was so foggy. Everything was different then. You know, it was more dangerous. I'm getting on a plane today and I'm not scared, you know, and I want your listeners to understand that, too. I don't know anyone of the kids that I grew up with who is afraid to fly today.

  • 11:15:39

    REHMNow, in that second tragedy where, in fact, the plane missed the school, still there were deaths and then there was a third.

  • 11:15:56

    BLUMEThe third was maybe the most dramatic because the third came down into the playing field of the only orphanage in town. So we have a junior high, a high school and an orphanage. That plane, I don't know how it was possible, but there were survivors in the third crash. And the flight attendant, we called her the stewardess then, was actually rescued by the boys from the orphanage who came running out into this freezing cold winter night. They were awakened in the middle of the night and they rushed into the burning and exploding plane and they rescued many people.

  • 11:16:46

    REHMWow. And, of course, you have a character, Mason, who is from an orphanage who does his part to rush into rescue. I should say, too, that you've looked at an awful lot of archival material in order to create not only the facts of the book, but drawn on your wonderfully creative imagination to bring forth the emotions that people must have felt and endured during those three tragedies. I cannot even imagine were that to happen today, as you said earlier. I mean, it would just be moments of utter terror.

  • 11:17:48

    REHMWe're going to take a short break here and when we come back, we'll talk more with Judy Blume. The book is titled, "In the Unlikely Event." And don't forget, you can see Judy Blume going to drshow.org.

  • 11:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. We are live video streaming this hour with Judy Blume, who is known to young and old and adored for her books. The latest, just out in paperback, is titled, "In the Unlikely Event." She is actually the best-selling author of 29 books, including the pre-teen and young-adult novels, "Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaret" also "Blubber" and "Forever." This book, "In the Unlikely Event," takes it's quote from something that we hear airline stewards and stewardesses say quite frequently, Judy.

  • 11:21:01

    BLUMEYeah. I always listen now on planes. Do they really still say it? In the unlikely event of a...

  • 11:21:07

    REHMYes.

  • 11:21:07

    BLUMEI don't always hear them say it anymore. But it's interesting that, when I needed a title for this book and I needed it right away and I had been working on it five years and no title had ever come to mind, I was telling a friend of mine about the book. She had never read it. She hadn't read anything about it. But I was telling her and I was explaining that I needed a title and I wanted it to be something airliney, you know?

  • 11:21:34

    REHMSure.

  • 11:21:35

    BLUMEShe's the one who came up with the title.

  • 11:21:36

    REHMIsn't that wonderful.

  • 11:21:37

    BLUMEWithout having read the book, she did. And my daughter was a commercial airline pilot. So folks, you know, I -- flying must be in my blood...

  • 11:21:47

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:21:48

    BLUME...in my genes.

  • 11:21:49

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:21:49

    BLUMEAnd she never knew this story.

  • 11:21:51

    REHMHuh.

  • 11:21:52

    BLUMESo...

  • 11:21:53

    REHMAnd the other similarity here is that the father in this book, the dentist in this book is beloved by everybody, as is Karin, the mother. But Mary, whose mother is a single mother, keeps wishing, somehow, that he could be her father as well.

  • 11:22:27

    BLUMEI think a lot of then girls, who grew up with me, wished that my father could be their father.

  • 11:22:38

    REHMBecause they loved him so much.

  • 11:22:40

    BLUMEThey loved him. They loved him. My father was -- he died at 54.

  • 11:22:44

    BLUMEWow.

  • 11:22:45

    BLUMESo, you know, I never got to know him as adult to adult, as well as we ever know our parents. But he was a wonderful, wonderful man. And yeah, he was a -- my editor says that someday a graduate student will write a paper on teeth in Judy Blume books.

  • 11:23:08

    REHMTeeth play prominent roles in your books.

  • 11:23:12

    BLUMEYes. And dentists too. And now I say I like to do dentists as heroes.

  • 11:23:19

    REHMI think that's lovely because dentists are so often maligned.

  • 11:23:27

    BLUMEThey are. And I just got -- in the book store, a book just arrived that's called "Demon Dentist" for children. And I'm thinking, oh, no. Do I really want "Demon Dentist" on my bookshelves?

  • 11:23:38

    REHMDid he treat children as well as adults?

  • 11:23:42

    BLUMEIn those days I think you treated everybody.

  • 11:23:44

    REHMEverybody, yeah.

  • 11:23:46

    BLUMEI think so.

  • 11:23:46

    REHMYeah. Let's talk about Mary. She is the young woman who really is at the center of this book. She is the daughter of a single mother, Rusty. She has never known her father. She has friends whom she envies because she and her mother have so little. But she has such a great heart.

  • 11:24:20

    BLUMEShe does. And so does Rusty, I think. I think -- I love Rusty. And I love Irene, Mary's grandma. They all live together.

  • 11:24:30

    REHMYes.

  • 11:24:30

    BLUMETogether with Uncle Henry too, who becomes a star reporter, reporting these tragedies. That's how he comes of age.

  • 11:24:45

    REHMIsn't that interesting that, in some ways, it takes something like a tragedy for one person to step up and really do it. And as soon as that crash occurred, he knew he -- and he had someone with him and said to him, now you keep taking pictures. Just keep taking pictures. And, of course, he's writing the whole time.

  • 11:25:18

    BLUMEYeah. I don't know if you've ever seen any of those cameras. And the name of the camera has just flown out of my head. But it's amazing because they have to keep taking out and putting in a -- I can't tell you what it is. But it's not like snap, snap, snap, now.

  • 11:25:33

    REHMYeah. Right.

  • 11:25:34

    BLUMEThey have to keep changing -- the whatever it is that they have to keep changing. I knew all of this when I was writing the book. But that's gone now. Yeah. It was amazing. I met -- the newspapermen that I was following -- and that's what they like to be called -- I felt that they were my friends because I was reading their stories, you know, every day. And I actually met a couple of the grown children of one of those newspapermen. I met so many people, Diane. You -- that would take another show. But on the -- just so you know, on the -- at the third crash, when there were survivors, there was a teenager named Cele Bell. And I wrote about her in the book, you know, because, why not? She was written about in the paper.

  • 11:26:28

    BLUMEAnd then, at one of my readings, was Cele Bell.

  • 11:26:31

    REHMThere she was. Oh, my gosh.

  • 11:26:32

    BLUMEYes. Yes.

  • 11:26:34

    REHMWhat was that meeting like?

  • 11:26:36

    BLUMEIt was wonderful. Of course, it was in public. But she's a spunky woman. And I said to her, so, Cele, did you ever fly again? And she said, two weeks later.

  • 11:26:47

    REHMHuh.

  • 11:26:47

    BLUMEI wasn't giving up my trip to Miami.

  • 11:26:49

    REHMHow interesting.

  • 11:26:50

    BLUMEYeah. She rescued her mother. She wouldn't get off that plane...

  • 11:26:54

    REHMWithout her mother.

  • 11:26:54

    BLUME...without her mother.

  • 11:26:56

    REHMSo many of the characters, though, in this book are the young teenagers, the ones who see things, who try to please their parents a great deal.

  • 11:27:15

    BLUMEWell, you know, it was the times. I mean, people say to me, how did you get that so right, that time and place? And I say, well, that, I remember it.

  • 11:27:24

    REHMIt was my time. Yeah.

  • 11:27:25

    BLUMEI lived through it. That was it.

  • 11:27:27

    REHMYeah.

  • 11:27:27

    BLUMEAnd, you know, early 1950s, I mean, our parents had been through the depression, had been through World War II. Now we were fighting in Korea. They just wanted us -- I say, they. Anyway, my parents just wanted me to be happy. And that's the role I was to play in the family. Be happy, no problems, give us pleasure. And it's a terrible burden to put on a kid really, because, you know, you can't always be happy.

  • 11:28:03

    REHMHow did your father die so young? Why?

  • 11:28:09

    BLUMEMy father was the baby of seven siblings and no one lived to be 60. My father was 54. He died suddenly of a heart attack. And, you know, it was the event of my life...

  • 11:28:28

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:28:28

    BLUME...that colored the rest of my life -- that still does. I was with him.

  • 11:28:35

    REHMYou were with him.

  • 11:28:36

    BLUMEI was with him.

  • 11:28:37

    REHMAt the moment.

  • 11:28:39

    BLUMEHolding his hand. Yes. And I was just weeks before my first marriage. I -- the invitations were out. And my father just looked at me and he said, oh, what lousy timing.

  • 11:28:53

    REHMUh.

  • 11:28:54

    BLUMEOh, gosh.

  • 11:28:55

    REHMMy gosh.

  • 11:28:56

    BLUMEI know. I know.

  • 11:28:58

    REHMAnd where were you when he had the heart attack?

  • 11:29:03

    BLUMEWell, I think it was happening in the car as we were driving home from the airport. We had just picked up my brother and sister-in-law. My brother was in the Air Force and he was coming home on -- furlough, break, whatever they called it. And they announced in the car that they would be having a baby. And I remember my father saying, what a banner year for the Sussmans. And then the car swerved and my mother said, Rudolph, what's the matter? And we got home and he got out of the car and he lay down. And the -- what we called the rescue squad then, the ENTs came and they went and they came back. And, you know, today, they would have taken him to the hospital.

  • 11:29:51

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:29:52

    BLUMEThey could have given him clot busting drugs. But not then.

  • 11:29:59

    REHMVery, very difficult. I'm glad you were with him though. I am glad you were with him. The idea of -- you and I grew up in the same era. I'm a bit older than you. I think it was an era of making sure that parents didn't know anything -- any sad thoughts…

  • 11:30:30

    BLUMEMm-hmm.

  • 11:30:31

    REHM...that we were having...

  • 11:30:32

    BLUMEMm-hmm.

  • 11:30:33

    REHM...any problems that we were having. We kept those to ourselves and shared them, probably -- I did anyhow -- with friends. Did you?

  • 11:30:48

    BLUMEI'm -- I was just going to say you were lucky. I had friends and I had a best friend and she is still my best friend all these years later. But in those days, both she -- she and I kept our family secrets.

  • 11:31:06

    REHMOh, really? From each other...

  • 11:31:07

    BLUMEWe did not share them.

  • 11:31:09

    REHMYou did not share those.

  • 11:31:10

    BLUMENo, we did not.

  • 11:31:13

    REHMMy best friend and I lived diagonally across three streets and an alleyway. And yet she could look out her front window, I could look out the back window with binoculars and communicate with each other. And we preferred doing that to being on the telephone.

  • 11:31:39

    BLUMEWell, you had your own telephone, that was your telephone.

  • 11:31:41

    REHMAbsolutely. Absolutely.

  • 11:31:43

    BLUMEYeah. No, Mary and I, you know, spent all day together in school and then came home and talked on the phone all night.

  • 11:31:51

    REHMAll night.

  • 11:31:51

    BLUMEAnd it was okay to fall in love with the same boy and say, how many times did he kiss you, how many times did he kiss you. But a lot of the deep down stuff, really, really important stuff, we didn't share. Today we do.

  • 11:32:07

    REHMToday you do?

  • 11:32:09

    BLUMEOh, yes. Oh, yes. We can talk about those days today. But we didn't then.

  • 11:32:15

    REHMAnd what were some of the things that bothered you the most back then?

  • 11:32:25

    BLUMEOh. Well, there are always family issues, I think, in any family. And that was certainly on my mind. But I don't know that I could have even put into words my fears, my anxieties. I mean, and that's the interesting thing. I was an anxious kid. And yet I lived though all of this. And, well, I guess I put it someplace.

  • 11:32:57

    REHMYes, you did.

  • 11:32:57

    BLUMEYou know, I must have put it someplace for all of these years.

  • 11:32:59

    REHMClearly.

  • 11:33:01

    BLUMEDidn't pull it out again until that specific moment. And when that moment came, you know, I was listening to another writer on stage talk about a book that she had written based on stories her mother told her about growing up in the '50s. That's all that I heard. This was Rachel Kushner, before she was Rachel Kushner. This was her first novel. And when she said that, it just came to me, it came over me. The whole book -- I suddenly had all the characters, the plot, everything. I knew where I was starting. I knew where it was ending. I mean, nothing like this has ever happened to me.

  • 11:33:43

    REHMAnd yet it took you five years.

  • 11:33:46

    BLUMEWell, yeah, to do all the research and to get it right.

  • 11:33:49

    REHMExactly.

  • 11:33:50

    BLUMEVery complicated.

  • 11:33:50

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And don't forget, we are video streaming this hour with Judy Blume. We've got lots of callers on the phones. We'll take some of them right now. First to Annie in Lynchburg, Va. You're on the air.

  • 11:34:14

    ANNIEHello, ladies. This is such a treat.

  • 11:34:16

    REHMOh, good.

  • 11:34:16

    ANNIEJudy, I'm almost 40 years old and you're taking me back today to my bed with the Strawberry Shortcake comforter. And I read all about the adventures of Superfudge, when he ate Peter's turtle. And I also wanted to say that you always made me laugh. But then you helped me understand what growing up to be a woman was like with, "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

  • 11:34:41

    REHMHmm.

  • 11:34:41

    ANNIEAnd it was the beginning of my faith. And I am so grateful to you for helping me understand those complex times.

  • 11:34:48

    BLUMEWell, thank you so much. I'm glad.

  • 11:34:52

    REHMAnd let's go to Elaine in Rockville, Md. You're on the air.

  • 11:34:59

    ELAINEJudy, hi. I grew up in Elizabeth, N.J.

  • 11:35:03

    BLUMEAh.

  • 11:35:03

    ELAINEA few years older than you. I lived in the same Elmora sections that you did. We probably were on the, what was it, the 24 bus going to Battin?

  • 11:35:11

    BLUMEYes, we were.

  • 11:35:12

    ELAINEYeah. And I was at Battin when the second plane came down. I was playing volleyball. We had a game after school. I don't know why. We had something like a fire drill, had to go outside in our blue gym outfit. And after...

  • 11:35:32

    REHMOh, I remember those.

  • 11:35:33

    ELAINE...which was probably the most traumatic event of the day. So, you know, like you, though, I don't -- going through your book and with my book clubs especially I was the resident historian, there wasn't a page that I could turn that I couldn't say, oh, yeah, Hadassah (sp?) , she named her doll Hadassah. I went to school with Hadassah, who she named her after. And the streets and the stores and the people, so much of it came back. And I'm so happy to hear that you're still good friends with your best friend from back then because I am too with the girls that I went to school, through Elizabeth with. And it was just a treat, really.

  • 11:36:17

    REHMBut, Elaine, let me ask you very quickly...

  • 11:36:21

    ELAINEYes.

  • 11:36:21

    REHM...about when that second plane crashed...

  • 11:36:27

    ELAINEYes.

  • 11:36:27

    REHM...what kind of impact did it have on you?

  • 11:36:32

    ELAINEWell, you know, I had -- we had already been through the first one, which went down in the Elizabeth River near the junior high school that Judy went to. So -- but like Judy said, I'm -- we didn't -- I didn't read the newspaper, so -- and we didn't have a lot on the radio. So I don't think I was so -- I wasn't scared...

  • 11:36:54

    REHMAware. Huh.

  • 11:36:55

    ELAINE...by it. I mean, I could see the building burning but it was more about what you talked about with your girlfriends afterward.

  • 11:37:03

    REHMWow. That really is something.

  • 11:37:05

    BLUMEI think that's the truth. I mean, I'd -- I imagine that if I had been Christina, one of the characters in my book who actually witnesses two of these crashes, it would be a different thing.

  • 11:37:20

    REHMJudy Blume. And the new book is titled, "In the Unlikely Event." Short break here. Don't forget, you can watch this hour video streaming.

  • 11:40:01

    REHMWelcome back. For those of you who've just joined us, Judy Blume is with me. She has written 29 books, the latest of which is titled "In the Unlikely Event," a phrase perhaps you still hear when the airline attendant tells you, in the unlikely event we lose oxygen, this will drop down. Make sure you put it on the child next to you first and so and so forth. So far, what we've heard is that because there was no 24-hour news cycle, most of the news about all of this, three crashes within 58 days near Elizabeth, New Jersey, most of it sort of went by.

  • 11:41:12

    REHMIn your book, however, there's one character who is deeply, deeply affected and that's Natalie. Tell us about Natalie. She is Mary's best friend.

  • 11:41:25

    BLUMEYes. She's Mary's best friend. Would Natalie have gone coo-coo anyway, I don't know. Natalie -- things were happening to Natalie and, you know, the fact that planes were crashing just seem to make it worse or happen sooner. Natalie looses touch with reality briefly. She does come back. I don't want any spoilers here, but it's not a hopeless book and I think that's what's most important. The characters are changed and the choices they make are changed because of what happened at this time and place.

  • 11:42:21

    BLUMEBut life goes on, as Irene says. Life goes on, Sweetie Pie. You know, life is for the living. My father used to say that to me every time one of his siblings died. Live is for the living and life goes on. And I believed him and it did. And even when he died, life went on. And you're still allowed to be happy and fall in love have friendships and it goes on.

  • 11:42:56

    REHMThe extraordinary thing that I might have thought would've happened is that people might leave that town, think it was jinxed, think I gotta get out of here.

  • 11:43:16

    BLUMEYeah, but it wasn't that easy then, I think. I mean, one family in the book, we don't know them well, a girl who goes to school with Mary and Natalie, her family does choose to leave. They can. They can afford to -- the father's job allows him to leave, but I don't remember anybody ever thinking of leaving. I mean, that was home. And one thing I should say is when it comes down to, well, how come, you know, this happened in Elizabeth, well, Newark Airport was -- again, flying was new.

  • 11:43:51

    BLUMEYou know, flying from place to place going on vacation, that was all very a new idea.

  • 11:43:56

    REHMAbsolutely.

  • 11:43:58

    BLUMEAnd Newark Airport was right there and the flight path took planes in and out over Elizabeth. After the third crash, Newark Airport was closed for nine months and the flight paths were changed and never have again taken planes over Elizabeth.

  • 11:44:22

    REHMInteresting, yeah. Was there something in the research you did to indicate there could've been a flaw, a blind spot, and obstacle, two pilots that had they been taken on a different route might not have occurred?

  • 11:44:45

    BLUMENo. They reasons for each crash was different. I mean, we have the CAB reports. Is that what it is? Yeah.

  • 11:44:54

    REHMCivil Air...

  • 11:44:55

    BLUMEWe have their report. Yeah, thank you. It's funny because it seems so long ago that I wrote the book and did the research, but I knew it all so well and I can still conjure it up. Each plane was a different reason and yet, the kids in the story believe, as the kids in my class did, that it was all about them. Of course, because they're kids, right? And we thought they are out to get us, whoever they are. And that ranged from, you know, zombies to communists to alien creatures and spacecrafts.

  • 11:45:39

    BLUMEThey were out to get us because why else would it be so close to schools and an orphanage. And to make sense of it, you know, the smart girls said it's sabotage, a word that I loved and agreed with, having no idea what it meant. But I did look it up in the dictionary.

  • 11:45:58

    REHMBut of course, you do include a lot of original text in the book from the newspapers.

  • 11:46:06

    BLUMEYes, I do. Yeah, and I actually was using it exactly as it was and I've still maintained the language of the '50s. I mean, the purple prose, you know. The plane came down like an angry wounded bird or the plane -- what was it? Something -- it wasn't a marshmallow, but a soggy -- not an éclair, but what else, something like that. My husband's back there trying to tell me, but I can't see him.

  • 11:46:40

    REHMAnd your husband actually helped you with the character...

  • 11:46:43

    BLUMEHe did.

  • 11:46:45

    REHM...of the journalist.

  • 11:46:46

    BLUMEHenry, yes, because when, very late in the game, the lawyers at the publishing company decided that I could not use the -- I could not give the stories to Henry Ammerman. It could not be his, what's the word, his byline. It could not be his byline because even though the actual journalists were no longer living, I would have to change enough about these...

  • 11:47:14

    REHMThe wording.

  • 11:47:14

    BLUME…stories.

  • 11:47:16

    REHMYeah, right.

  • 11:47:17

    BLUMEAnd that was like, no, you can't do this to me. This book is already scheduled. I'm still -- I have so much to do in the revisions. How will I ever do that? I can't. Excuse me. And then, my wonderful George said, who's a great writer, by the way, said I can be your Henry Ammerman.

  • 11:47:38

    REHMOh, isn't that wonderful.

  • 11:47:39

    BLUMEAnd we set up a news room in our apartment in New York and it was like, you know, I was the managing director and I was throwing stories at him and then he would come back and I would say, make this better. And he would come back. We had a good time.

  • 11:47:55

    REHMThat's great that you were able to work with him on that.

  • 11:48:00

    BLUMEWell, it's great that I have George in my life, yes.

  • 11:48:02

    REHMHow long have you been married to George?

  • 11:48:05

    BLUMEWe've been together 37 years.

  • 11:48:07

    REHMHow wonderful. I'm so glad for you.

  • 11:48:09

    BLUMEAnd it's been the best 37 years of my life.

  • 11:48:10

    REHMAh, I'm so glad for you. So you've written so many books, Judy.

  • 11:48:20

    BLUMEYou think? I don't think it's that many books.

  • 11:48:23

    REHM29?

  • 11:48:24

    BLUMEYeah, but I wrote them, I was very prolific in the beginning. You know, I needed it so much. It so changed my life. It gave me my life. And just one poured after another. But then, after I met George, I got happy. And I used to tease him and say, you ruined my career, but I'm happy. But I can still conjure up the angst that helps you write a book, I think.

  • 11:48:52

    REHMAll right. Let's go back to the phones to Doug. He's in Athens, Ohio. You're on the air, Doug.

  • 11:49:02

    DOUGI just wanted to thank the both of you, Diane for continuing a wonderful show. I listen often.

  • 11:49:10

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:49:10

    DOUGAnd Judy, I'm from Elizabeth, New Jersey, and as a toddler, I actually witnessed a little bit of the aftermath of the crashes into the Janet Memorial's grounds. I remember all the windows turned orange and then my parents told me to go to bed.

  • 11:49:31

    REHMWow.

  • 11:49:31

    DOUGSo...

  • 11:49:32

    BLUMENo one ever told me that, Doug, but I have since met and become friendly with a man who as a young boy about Mason's age. He was in ninth grade. I was in eighth when this happened. And it's very interesting that we've now met a couple of times and each time, we just feel this connection, you know, this connection because how many people are interested in this terrible night that he lived through.

  • 11:50:07

    REHMI'm glad you called, Doug.

  • 11:50:09

    BLUMEThank you, Doug.

  • 11:50:10

    REHMThank you so much. And when you think about a young boy seeing orange windows, knowing...

  • 11:50:21

    BLUMEI never was told that. This is a first. Too bad I can't go back and put that in the book.

  • 11:50:25

    REHMYeah, exactly. Exactly.

  • 11:50:27

    BLUMEAnd the windows turned orange.

  • 11:50:29

    REHMJudy, in terms of all the books you've written, you've had a number that librarians or school districts have said no to. Tell me your reaction when that's happened.

  • 11:50:45

    BLUMEWell, let's not give librarians a bad name here because it's very rarely the librarians. Maybe back in the early '80s when people were running scared, but for the most part, yes, school boards sometimes, you know, would think or still do think, no, we can't have this. This is too controversial.

  • 11:51:08

    REHMWhich book? Which book...

  • 11:51:09

    BLUMEOh, there's so many of them. Name one. I mean, "Blubber" got hit big, really big in Montgomery County. Isn't that a nearby...

  • 11:51:18

    REHMWhy? On what grounds?

  • 11:51:23

    BLUMEOn not hitting the reader over the head with a message that it's bad to be a bully and I was telling a story, you know, where I knew that kids would get it. They didn't need to be hit over the head. We didn't even call it bullying then.

  • 11:51:41

    REHMI remember.

  • 11:51:42

    BLUMEYou know? We didn't say bully. Victimization in the classroom. But it's the same thing. It was a mean girl and she did her mean work there and -- yeah.

  • 11:51:58

    REHMSo to what extent did you want to or did you have to fight back once those school boards or whoever said?

  • 11:52:12

    BLUMEThings we never think we're going to do, but then, push comes to shove...

  • 11:52:16

    REHMYou bet.

  • 11:52:16

    BLUME...and yes, I had no voice in the beginning in which to fight back, but then, I was introduced to the National Coalition Against Censorship and through them, I found my voice and I found a way to fight back. And to this day, I like to think I work for them in talking about, you know, the freedom to read and how important it is. And they're just a wonderful, small organization and they do great work. And if something is happening in your community and you don't know where to turn, you can call the National Coalition Against Censorship and you will get a real person on the other end of the phone who will help you and help you get through this.

  • 11:53:10

    REHMWise words. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, to Evansville, Indiana. Hi, Holly. You're on the air.

  • 11:53:25

    HOLLYHello. I just wanted to call and say that we grew up with her books with Judy's books and my mom was a fourth grade teacher and she encouraged her students to read Judy Blume. And they were just such a part of our childhood. And I don't recall -- and I grew up, you know, '70s, '80s and I don't recall my mother ever saying, let's not read this one. Let's not read that one.

  • 11:53:51

    BLUMELucky you. Lucky you.

  • 11:53:54

    HOLLYYes. And I went to a parochial school and I don't recall that, which would be a school that would be one to say, oh, no, we can't read that. And now, my five children all have enjoyed your books. We love your books and I just wanted to thank you so much for your contribution to children's literature. It has absolutely changed our lives.

  • 11:54:13

    BLUMEThank you so much.

  • 11:54:13

    HOLLYAnd we just love them all. Thank you.

  • 11:54:14

    BLUMEThank you, Holly. You know, the best gift my parents ever gave to me was the gift that reading is a good thing. I could read anything. They didn't -- maybe they didn't know enough to worry. I don't think so. Excuse me. You know, I was free to browse through the books in our living room. And we had a lot of books. And there were no YA books then. And by the way, I don't consider myself a YA writer because maybe "Forever" would be YA today. But when I wrote "Forever," there was no such category as YA.

  • 11:54:49

    REHMReally?

  • 11:54:50

    BLUMEAnd so I went right to their shelves and I was reading Saul Bellow.

  • 11:54:55

    REHMEverything.

  • 11:54:56

    BLUMEI was reading everything and I might not have understood it, but I was curious about the world of adults.

  • 11:55:02

    REHMJudy, you talked about the fact that your dad died so young. Did your mother remarry?

  • 11:55:13

    BLUMEMy mother did not. Widowed at 54, lived to 83, never remarried. I don't think that she really wanted to. I don't think so.

  • 11:55:27

    REHMWhat was it like for you at that point? You were about to be married. How did the loss of your dad change your life?

  • 11:55:39

    BLUMEIt was terrible. It was -- I mean, talk about parents who never talk to their children about anything. My mother never spoke of that day that my father died. Never spoke about it. I mean, we could tell little stories later on about daddy this and daddy that, but that day, never. Never spoke about it. Never really let me see her cry. Once, I came into a room and she was crying and I think we were both so taken aback that I just turned around and left.

  • 11:56:21

    BLUMEYou know, I talk about everything to anybody who will listen, maybe because I grew up in this household where important things were never talked about.

  • 11:56:33

    REHMYou and I have much in common.

  • 11:56:37

    BLUMEOh, I know we do. I know we do.

  • 11:56:40

    REHMAnd I'm so glad, in this last year of my being on the air, and perhaps the last book you might write that we've had a chance to share time with each other.

  • 11:56:57

    BLUMENot as glad as I am. Thank you, Diane.

  • 11:57:00

    REHMThank you. Judy Blume and the book is titled "In the Event Of." Thanks all for listening. I'd Diane Rehm.

Related Links

Topics + Tags

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

President Trump On Capitol Hill

Friday, Mar 03 2017Earlier this week President Donald Trump gave his first address to a joint session of Congress: Diane speaks with two reporters about his speech and how his agenda compares with the priorities of Republican leaders in Congress.

New York Times Columnist David Brooks

Friday, Feb 24 2017New York Times columnist David Brooks talks with Diane about what he sees happening inside Washington and around the country and why he thinks President Trump represents the wrong answer to the right question.