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On the historical value of a pink plastic belt

Though her books are some of the more famous YA novels to have been banned in libraries, very few people know of the changes Judy Blume voluntarily made to one of her books in the mid-1990s. The book in question, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — a book about puberty, young sexuality, and a young girl’s desire to have her first period — was quietly changed in a small but significant way: Blume modernized references to an antiquated form of feminine sanitary product (the kind with belts) by making the sanitary napkin Margaret’s protection of choice. Last week, Salon.com’s Rebecca Traister lamented the change, reporting on the historical value of the book and all of its anachronistic parts.

She writes, “[I]t makes me a little sad to think that girls (and boys) who get to know her now don’t know that she had to pick the color of her belt and learn how to operate it. It seems to me as fundamental a part of the book as the suburban house in which she grew up…. It’s hard to imagine, but while we’ve been busy growing up, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has become a historical novel, one that gives its readers more than just a mirror held up to their own specific conditions. It offers them the thrill of seeing themselves, even in characters who live in different times, in different worlds. That stupid pink belt is as fundamental as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s corncob doll Susan, or the junk that Francie and Neeley Nolan exchange for pennies. The miniature that Jane Eyre draws of Blanche Ingram to remind herself of her comparative worthlessness is heartbreakingly familiar, even though today, upon hearing of her rival’s beauty from Mrs. Fairfax, Jane probably would have just looked her up on MySpace.”

Related links:
Click here for Traister’s piece on Salon.com