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In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

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Location: New Jersey, USA

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Postby Susan » Sun June 7th, 2015, 9:24 pm

For the past 14 years, I've taught middle school students in three schools in Elizabeth, NJ, hometown of Judy Blume and the setting of this novel. Two of the three schools where I have taught were the schools (Hamilton, now a high school and Battin, now a K-8 school) that narrowly missed getting hit by the first and second crashes. I can look out my current classroom window and see where crash two happened. It's right across the street. Ironically, from the same window, I can see the skyline of lower Manhattan in the distance, and the site of the World Trade Center where the new, gleaming Freedom Tower stands. As someone whose career has been child-centered, I am disturbed that all three crashes narrowly missed places associated with children. Crash three just missed an orphanage (a school is now on the site). All this brings a personal connection to this novel, probably the closest connection I've ever felt to a novel.

While the crashes are an important part of the novel, it is a coming of age novel. Being a middle school teacher who deals with students close in age to characters in the novel, I can relate to how children in Elizabeth at that time felt, how the crashes affected them, and how the coped, or didn't cope. The reader experiences all this through the characters. The novel also offers a glimpse back into the Elizabeth of 63 years ago that no longer exists. As a person who has spent so much time there, who knows the streets that are mentioned (when I taught at Hamilton, I parked on Sayre Street, the street where the protagonist lives) and who knows how much the city has changed, I appreciated that glimpse back into the early 1950s. I can also appreciate how very difficult this novel must have been for Judy Blume to write. When the protagonist says that certain burning smells bring her back to that time, that has to be Judy Blume's memory.
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