Author Judy Blume put a little of herself in this poignant novel of the mid ’70s: Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.
The story begins with 10 year old Sally, who moves with her brother, parents and Grandmother from New Jersey to Miami, Florida after the end of WWII, because of her brother’s health, for the winter.
Travelling south to Florida by train, Sally experiences racism as she meets a Black family also travelling south. She becomes their friend, but when she returns the next day, the family is moved to a segregated car, which upsets and confounds Sally.
She enrolls in her new school and has to have a physical, where she finds out she has lice, which upsets her Mum, who takes this as a judgement on the family. She makes friends, hanging out with Barbara, Andrea and Shelby, but is confounded by Peter, a self-proclaimed Latin lover, who focuses on becoming friends with every new girl in their class but also seems to want to spend time with her too.
And Sally deals with fellow classmate Harriet, who dislikes her because she is a snowbird.
Sally becomes obsessed with Mr. Zavodsky, an elderly gentleman who lives in her building, and to her, resembles Adolf Hitler. She decides he is Hitler, and is hiding in Miami. She writes him letters (which she never sends) and spies on him, worried that he may go after her friends and offers them candy as a lure.
Published in 1977 by Bradbury, this young adult novel was Blume’s focus on showcasing what it was like to grow up post World War II. She writes about racism, anti-semitism and sibling rivalry, focusing on how her brother Douglas is aloof and cool, and then has a girlfriend.
Blume weaves a world of the Jewish community in Miami as much as what the post World War II world is like, with many people dealing with the after-effects of the war, and the prejudice that still exists. She also references many celebrities of the era, like Bing Crosby, Esther Williams, Jane Russell, Humphrey Bogart and Rita Hayworth.
This novel is a sweet story of a girl becoming a tween, still young enough to create fantasies in her mind, but her awareness growing of what is happening around her and injustices in the world.