101-Year-Old Grace Linn: ‘Banning Books and Burning Books Are the Same’
Others protesting book bans in schools and libraries across America have held up signs in protest. Grace Linn held up a quilt.
The 101-year-old created the quilt that was displayed as she squared off against the Martin County School Board for banning 84 books. According to officials, the ban was the district’s effort to comply with a Florida Department of Education directive as part of the implementation of House Bill 1467.
Linn still vividly remembers World War II, when books were banned and burned because they were written by people whom the people in power hated, or because the authors had different ideas than those in power.
“Banning books and burning books are the same. Both are done for the same reason: fear of knowledge,” Linn said. “They’re afraid that people will know better than they did.”
But each generation should know better, do better, and be better, Linn said. Society can’t grow and evolve without the education and empathy-building that come from the free exchange of thoughts shared through books.
The ability for authors to write and people to read books is a constitutional right guaranteed by the First Amendment that Linn’s husband, Robert Nicoll, fought — and died for — during WWII, Linn said.
She doesn’t want his fighting and his death to be in vain. So now she’s fighting. After she spoke out at a Martin County School Board meeting, her speech was featured on The View and she was a guest on Ali Velshi’s Banned Book Club. She’s featured in the new documentary, The ABCs of Book Banning on Paramount+.
No one has to read or agree with the content of every single book, Linn said. If you don’t like a book, simply don’t buy it, borrow it from a library, or read it. If a parent doesn’t want their child to read a book, the parent can forbid their child from doing so. But no one person or group should ever get to decide what is available for people to read.
“Books should be read — if you choose to — displayed, and protected — not banned or feared,” Linn said.
“Fear is not freedom. Fear is not liberty. Fear is control,” Linn told the school board. Now it’s become her mantra when she talks to news outlets – of which there have been many in America and beyond – who want to know even more about Linn and her fight against banning books.
“Grace Linn stated the slippery slope of book bans far more eloquently than I ever could — because she has LIVED it,” said author Jodi Picoult; the Martin County School Board banned 20 of her books. “It breaks my heart to know that (Linn) is still fighting against totalitarian control and the government’s interference in the freedom to read at her age — and I am so grateful she chose to speak out. I hope she can inspire everyone to take a stand, like she has.”
Linn’s far from finished spreading her message, as evidenced by the quilt. She’s now made a second banned books quilt and a banner that lists the books banned in Martin County.
“A sign is finished after you use it; a quilt goes on forever,” she said.