With 100 years of experience behind her, Florida resident Grace Linn has lived through a lot of history. Her husband was killed fighting the Nazis in World War II. Linn, a local resident, appeared at a Tuesday night meeting of the Martin County school board to speak out against the Florida book ban.
About 200 people, including many parents and grandparents, attended the meeting. Some speakers supported the removal of more than 80 titles from school libraries. But most speakers demanded that the titles be returned to school library shelves.
Linn had a message to deliver to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the book banners in his state.
Watch Linn’s potent statement:
Books were removed last month after a parent, Julie Marshall, the head of the Martin County Moms for Liberty chapter, filed challenges—her right under recent laws introduced by DeSantis allowing parents to object to books they consider “inappropriate” for children.
Martin County is on the southeast coast of Florida. Donald Trump carried the county by a 62% to 37% margin over Joe Biden.
Several of the 40-plus speakers requested that the school board, at minimum, set up a committee to read the books and reconsider their removal. After listening to the speakers, the board took no immediate action to return or reconsider the removed books.
Among the books removed were Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Beloved, which had been on high school shelves. Twenty books by best-selling romance novelist Jodi Picoult were removed from high school libraries—including The Story Teller, My Sister's Keeper, Lone Wolf, House Rules, and Keeping Faith — after objections that they were romance novels for adults, not children, Treasure Coast Palm reported.
Other titles removed included: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds, Forever by Judy Blume, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.
Linn, a 33-year resident of the area, was quite explicit in her comparisons when opposing the book ban. As she told the school board:
“I’m here to protest our school district’s book banning policy. My husband Robert Nichol was killed in action in World War II at a very young age —he was only 26—defending our democracy, constitution and freedoms.
“One of the freedoms that the Nazis crushed was the freedom to read the books that they banned. They stopped the free press, banned and burned books. The freedom to read which is protected by the First Amendment is our essential right and duty of our democracy.”
Linn also displayed a quilt she had made with the titles of books that had been banned and targeted over the years. The quilt displays such removed titles as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Fahrenheit 451—Ray Bradbury’s novel about a future America in which “firemen” burn books outlawed by the government.
Local NBC/Fox affiliate WPTV’s Danielle Seat visited Linn at her home the day after the school board meeting. In the interview, Linn declared, "I care about this community and our country."
She held up her quilt and pointed to the title The Color Purple and said, "When I showed this to adult women, they'll say, 'Oh, no they didn't do that to The Color Purple." Linn also noted that she was “born the year after women got the right to vote,” and said she has devoted herself to ensuring that lessons learned in the past won’t be forgotten.
"History will repeat itself if you don't know history. History needs to be told, and everyone needs to know what went on in the past," she said. "Banning books and burning books are the same. Both are done for the same reason—fear of knowledge."
As Treasure Coast Palm reports, Marshall, who filed the initial challenge, said she had worked with like-minded parents to compile the list of books that should be removed. "Persecute me for standing on morality," she said. "I really don't care.”
Another book ban supporter, Elizabeth Crane, said, "I do not want pornography around my grandchildren or any children." She then remarked that she was in fourth grade when they removed prayer from schools, "and today kids have to read about rape."
Other parents said that no person or group should decide what books should be available to their children. Karen Janson, a parent, said people like Marshall didn’t speak for her.
"Judy Blume helped me through adolescence," Janson said. "Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye helped me understand that I have privileges that my Black peers do not enjoy. Jodi Picoult continues to educate me on social issues that I do not fully comprehend. In order to be a united community, we must understand one another."
Some of the authors themselves have spoken out against the removal of their books from Martin County school libraries. Picoult has repeatedly protested Florida’s book bans on her Twitter feed.
Picoult’s The Storyteller is about the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who meets an elderly former SS officer. It includes some violent scenes, told in flashbacks from World War II, and an assisted suicide. In an email to The Washington Post, Picoult wrote:
“Martin County is the first to ban twenty of my books at once,” Picoult said, slamming such bans as “a shocking breach of freedom of speech and freedom of information.” A coastal county in the southeastern part of the state, Martin County is heavily Republican.
Picoult said she’s puzzled by the ban, because she does not “write adult romance,” as objections filed against her books claimed.
“Most of the books pulled do not even have a single kiss in them,” Picoult told us. “They do, however, include gay characters, and issues like racism, disability, abortion rights, gun control, and other topics that might make a kid think differently from their parents.”
“We have actual proof that marginalized kids who read books about marginalized characters wind up feeling less alone,” Picoult continued. “Books bridge divides between people. Book bans create them.”
James Patterson, the best-selling author of the Alex Cross crime mystery series, protested the removal of his Maximum Ride series from elementary school libraries in Martin County. They remain available in middle school and high school libraries. The young adult science fantasy novels are about the adventures of a family of human-avian hybrids created at an experimental lab.
In a tweet, Patterson, a Palm Beach resident, urged people to send “a polite note” to DeSantis, protesting the Martin County School District’s “arbitrary and borderline absurd decision” to ban the Maximum Ride series.
Treasure Coast Palm gave this detailed description of how the book removal process works under the new laws introduced by DeSantis:
Anyone can challenge a book in the school library, according to district policy. Once a challenge is made, the school's media specialist is required to review the book and make a recommendation whether to keep it on the shelf. Next, the school's principal meets with the person making the complaint to tell them of the decision.
The decision can be appealed to the director of curriculum and instruction and, ultimately, to the School Board. Parents also can request their children not be given access to certain books or materials.
State law requires media specialists undergo training and ensure library books are age-appropriate, free of pornography and not harmful to minor children. Violators could face a third-degree felony charge. The state Department of Education, in a presentation explaining the law, suggests media specialists "err on the side of caution" when selecting books.
Florida Education Association—the state’s largest teacher’s union—filed an administrative legal challenge on March 16, asserting that HB 1467, the law spurring the book bans, overreaches when it comes to those “media specialists” and their scope of influence, which goes beyond school libraries and also targets classroom collections.
Rather than seeking to roll back the entire law, though, the suit asserts that “the Department of Education expanded the scope of the law and went too far when it issued training for school librarians this year.”