I love Jezebel's Friday recap of a YA book from our childhood, and this week's book is Judy Blume's "Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself." LOVED this book. LOVED.
Although I am Catholic, the details of life in a Jewish household, with Yiddish-speaking Ma Fanny as your grandma, were just wonderful. So rich, so easy to visualize. I remember to this day that Sally learned to spit whenever she said Hitler's name, and I have often wanted to do the same thing, for Hitler and a few other horrible people.
"Sally J." was also unusual for a YA book in that it dealt with the Holocaust as something that had freshly happened and was still being discovered in regular American households. Sally's cousin Lila and Tante Rose were gassed in Auschwitz, and naturally, that occupies a large spot of Sally's mind. She goes as far to imagine that her neighbor is Hitler. I used to ask my mom what it was like in the U.S. when the word of the camps came out after the war. It seems so impossible that they weren't known about. I used to be so frustrated by the idea that they went on for years and ordinary citizens the world over just went on living.
According to numerous sources in the Jezebel piece, Judy Blume has called "Sally J." her most autobiographical book. I wonder if she too wanted to be Esther Williams, and had a fascination with Margaret O'Brien. So many kids of the 1970s had their minds opened to pop culture of the 1940s thanks to this book.