It’s been more than 15 years since Judy Blume’s last novel for adults, Summer Sisters, was published, in 1998, so the publication of her new adult novel is a very big deal, what publishers like to call a rare “publishing event.” That event happens on June 2 with the release of In the Unlikely Event. But today, BookCon attendees have a chance to meet Judy Blume and get their hands on her new book two days before that official date. At 2:30 Blume will be interviewed by fellow bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, whose new book, Who Do You Love, will come out in late summer. The panel, “ Judy Blume in Conversation with Jennifer Weiner,” takes place in the Special Events Hall. From 3:30–5 p.m., Blume will be signing books at Table 5 in the autographing area.
In the Unlikely Event was an unlikely event itself. According to a feature in the May 24th New York Times Magazine by Susan Dominus, Blume had no intention of writing another adult novel. But in 2009, in Key West, where she lives, Blume attended a lecture by Rachel Kushner, who talked about her book, Telex from Cuba. Blume told Dominus that was when what became In the Unlikely Event “swooped down on her.” Her new book is set in the 1950s in Blume’s hometown of Elizabeth, N.J. In the span of two months beginning in December 1951, when Blume was 14, three planes crashed in Elizabeth, killing a total of 116 people. The memory of the horrific crashes remained dormant until Kushner’s talk unleashed this story of how three generations of families, friends, and strangers were profoundly affected by unexpected events.
Blume is best known for her ground-breaking books for girls and teens, among them Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Some of the 28 books she’s written, including Forever and Deenie, have over the years been banned from schools and libraries. That might explain why Blume is a passionate champion of intellectual freedom, working with the National Coalition Against Censorship. In 2004, Blume was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
This article appeared in the May 31, 2015 edition of PW BookCon Daily.