Judy Blume can add another accolade to her long list of literary accomplishments. The 85-year-old author will soon be honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for Bravery in Literature.
The award is new, just launched by the Eleanor Roosevelt Center in Hyde Park, New York. For 30 years, however, the center has given the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal to individuals who exemplify the First Lady’s commitment to creating a more equitable and just world.
Now, in light of recent book-banning controversies across the country, the Eleanor Roosevelt Center is awarding authors who bravely tackle difficult yet important subjects. Blume, who is known for her groundbreaking young adult books like “Blubber,” “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Deenie,” will receive the first-ever Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for Bravery in Literature on February 17.
The award ceremony will take place at The Fisher Center at Bard College. Judy Blume (who lives in Key West, Florida), will livestream into the event, and other authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, George M. Johnson and Jelani Memory will also be honored for their commitment to creating literature that both challenges and comforts.
Concerns over censorship and book banning are not new. Eleanor Roosevelt herself spoke out against attempts to censor books and other form of media. In 1949, the First Lady wrote a column criticizing the New York City Board of Education for banning the magazine “The Nation” from the city’s schools.
“I do not feel that banning books, magazines, newspapers, special writers or radio commentators actually trains people in the democratic processes,” Roosevelt wrote. “I feel that if you live in a democracy you have to be able, because of the freedom which is part of the rights of every individual in a democracy, to make your own judgments as an individual. Since all people must have equal freedom we must be trained to decide after hearing the facts where we ourselves stand. Therefore, you need to hear both sides of every question.”
Judy Blume is no stranger to book banning. She has experienced it going back to 1970, when “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” came out; that book was taken off shelves even in her children’s school. Blume’s books where also targeted by a conservative group in the 1980s. In March 2023, her novel “Forever” (which was published in 1975) was banned from Florida’s Martin County School District.
In a 2023 interview with BBC’s “Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg,” Blume said that today’s censorship is more dangerous than ever.
“I came through the ’80s when book banning was really at its height,” Blume said. “And it was terrible. And then libraries and schools began to get policies in place and we saw a falling-off of the desire to censor books. Now it is back, it is back much worse — this is in America. It is back so much worse than it was in the ’80s. Because it’s become political.”
The Eleanor Roosevelt Banned Book Awards ceremony on February 18 is open to the public. You can buy tickets here.