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Forever: an Overly Sexual Abomination or Coming of Age Novel?

In: English and Literature

Submitted By anajellos
Words 1438
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Anisa Ellis-Smith
Ms. Rochman
English 12
January 2, 2013
Forever: An Overly Sexual Abomination or Coming of Age Novel?
The first amendment of the Constitution has given every American citizen the right practice freedom of speech. Yet and still, it seems that literary censorship, which is “the act of changing or suppressing speech or writing that is considered subversive of the common good,” (Merriam-Webster, 2012) has been more prevalent in the past 100 years than ever before. People all around the country have been affected by the parameters of censorship. Author Judy Blume once said when asked her opinion about it the topic, “It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.” (NMSU Library, n.d.). Blume, herself, is no stranger to censorship. Several of her writings have made ALA’s list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books. Her 1975 novel Forever was both challenged and banned in over 10 different states because of its descriptively sexual content, disobedience to parents, “lack of moral tone,” and use of profanity (Censorship & Judy Blume, n.d.).
Forever is the story of two high school seniors, Katherine and Michael, and their journey throughout their relationship. The teens meet at a party and fall in love from there. Eventually, Katherine loses her virginity to Michael and they promise each other that they will last “forever.” They managed to keep this promise for a while until they were forced apart for a summer because Katherine’s parents made her get an out of town job. Judy Blume created a typical teenage love story.
In 1983, schools in Akron, Ohio decided to make a change to their libraries. Forever had been available for kids to take out at any time. However, after going through the book, school administrators found multiple reasons why, in their opinions, it was not appropriate for their young students to read. At one point in the book, a character named Jamie said “f*ck” and when reprimanded about it she responded, “That’s not a bad word, hate and war are bad words, f*ck isn’t.” (Blume, 1975). In another instance, Katherine paid a visit to Planned Parenthood to get some birth control. Many parents and authoritative figures opposed to these scenarios. Finally, the book was officially banned for the use of “four-letter words,” the mention of masturbation and birth control, and the display of disobedience to parents. A similar verdict was reached in Orlando, Florida and Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1982.
A public library in Holdredge, Nebraska also had some reserves about the novel. It was said that “the book is pornographic and does not promote the sanctity of life, family life.” (Doyle, 2007). Some may consider Forever to have pornographic qualities because it describes the first time Michael and Katherine had sex in great detail. As for not promoting “the sanctity of family life,” Katherine and Michael engaged in premarital sex, which goes against pre-existing morals and religious standards. Nebraskan citizens felt that this kind of description was unsuitable for the target age group. Therefore, they challenged the book. However, the challenge never actually turned into an official ban. The library simply moved to book to the regular Adult shelf in 1984.
Parental complaints drove an Illinois school district to face a 1997 uproar about Forever. They complained that there were too many graphic sexual details and an abundance of inappropriate language. Many adults felt that their children shouldn’t be exposed to that type of vulgarity. They had to do something to change these circumstances. The complaints had been heard and Forever was banned from the entire Elgin, Illinois school system. Two years later, the decision to ban the book was challenged in an attempt to gain control over some of the censorship in America. But, the challenge was ignored. Yet again, in 2003 the school district was urged to reinstate the book because the banning was seen as “unconstitutional.” (Censorship & Judy Blume, n.d.). However, that, too, was ignored and the ban policy has remained to this day.
Judy Blume’s Forever was banned because parents across the nation were offended by the blunt language and colorful descriptions that were used. Censorship has bombarded its way into the lives of many authors today. Countless entertaining, thought-provoking, and lesson-filled books have been removed from society as a result of it. Judy Blume has experienced this first hand, not only with Forever, but with several of her other works of literature. Some feel that censorship is necessary to keep our world in order; others feel that censorship has the complete opposite effect. Although not everyone agrees with the choices that have been made to ban Forever, this information proves that it only takes is one person’s indifference to cause the literary world to spin.
Based on the research that I have done for this paper, I believe that Forever should not have been banned. It is a favorite among those who have read it because it takes a positive approach on a sensitive topic: teenage/premarital sex. The most common issue in all of these cases was that the book was too descriptively sexual. I am almost 100 percent sure that teens will be exposed to sex one way or another between the ages of 13 and 18, whether it’s because of television, books, or real life. Judy Blume should not have to suffer as a writer just because some people are not mature enough to handle the content of her book. Furthermore, when Judy Blume released Forever, she intended it to be a young adult/teenage book. More than 50% of the banning was centered on the book being inappropriate for 9, 10, 11, and 12 year olds. Anybody that isn’t old enough to be legally classified as a teenager should not be reading it anyway. Forever shows that, if a teen does make a personal decision to become sexually active before they are married, it does not always mean that things have to go terribly wrong. I admire the way that Judy Blume wrote this book. Forever didn’t deserve to be banned. It should be appreciated for being realistic without being pessimistic.

Works Cited

"100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000." ALA. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=bbwlinks>.
Blume, Judy. Forever. New York: Bradbury, 1975. Print.
"Censorship and Banned Books Tags: Banned_books, Censorship." NMSU Library. New
Mexico State Univeristy, n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books. 1st. Chicago: American Library Association, 2007. 27-28. Print.

"Forever - Banned." Free Republic. N.p., 10 Apr. 2005. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1381149/posts>.

""Forever" - Censorship & Judy Blume." Censorship & Judy Blume. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://censorshipandjudyblume.weebly.com/forever.html>.

"Forever by Judy Blume." Staff Picks RSS. Iowa City Public Library, 10 Sept. 2007. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://staffpicks.icpl.org/2007/09/forever-by-judy-blume/%20>.

"Judy Blume Forever Censored?" Pelham Public Library, 28 Sept. 2006. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://pelhamlibrary.blogspot.com/2006/09/in-recognition-of-alas-banned-books.html>.

Maynard, Joyce. "Coming of Age with Judy Blume." The New York Times on the Web. The New York Times, 3 Dec. 1978. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/13/specials/maynard-blume.html>.

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2012. <http://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/censorship>. "My Banned Book." - The Hero's Journey. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Dec. 2012. <http://thehero.ning.com/profiles/blogs/my-banned-book>.

Richards, Linda. "Judy Blume on Censorship, Enjoying Life, and Being in the Spotlight for 25 Years." January Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.
<http://januarymagazine.com/profiles/blume.html>.

Small, Jordan. "Banned: Judy Blume's Forever." Welcome to Small Swords Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.
<http://smallswordsmagazine.com/articles/text/judyblumeforever.html>.

"So What Did Judy Blume Do?" Censorshipisadvertising. N.p., 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 28 Dec. 2012. <http://censorshipisadvertising.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/so-what-did-judy- blume-do/>.

Szymanski, Mallory. "Adolescence, Literature and Censorship: Unpacking The Controversy Surrounding Judy Blume-Szymanski | NeoAmericanist." NeoAmericanist. N.p., 2007. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

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