Friday, May 16, 2008

Oh, Sally J., where have you gone?

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.


Crabby Apple Seed: said...

oh, I loved this book. It was totally foreign to me, too- not just because she was Jewish and I grew up Protestant, but for other reasons, too. Party lines with different rings, believing Hitler could live next door, etc. But most of all? The idea of moving to south Florida because my brother got sick. I mean, I didn't even bother wishing for my brother to get a kidney infection, because I knew all it would mean was that he'd get all the attention, and we'd still be living in ass-cold Chicago.

Still, I really loved this book, because I think some of the things she wished for are common to most girls. The whole idea of wanting a more glamorous, exciting life, being a daddy's girl, etc.

This is a really cool feature, thanks for linking to it.

Copy Editor said...

I loved this book, too. I think I got it at a used book sale or something and I don't remember ever discussing it with anyone, but I loved it. The other Judy Blume book I loved that I didn't think anyone else had heard of was "Iggie's House."

Anonymous said...

You know, I didn't realize until a couple of YEARS ago what was meant by "love and other indoor sports." :D

Anonymous said...

I read this book for the first time as a nine-year-old in the early 1990s. A lot of it went over my head, but I reread every year for years, and enjoyed it more each time. Sally was my hero.

Captain Cooper said...

I also read this book in the late 1980's, early '90s and was completely fascinated by it. I must have read it 5 or 6 times. I also wanted to be Sally--she was amazing and so creative. I think it was right around the time I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" in school, so there was a lot of Holocaust information swirling around.