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100 Year Old Lady At Florida School Board Better Patriot Than All Book Banners Put Together
Knows a thing or two about fascists.
Earlier this month, the school district in Martin County, Florida, purged at least 84 books from school libraries after complaints from the head of the local Moms for "Liberty" chapter under the state's school censorship law, HB 1467, passed last year. PEN America notes that most of the books were removed following challenges by a single objector, "who filed forms indicating that she did not actually read any of the books in question." No problem; in keeping with the law, a DeSanctified "media specialist" in the district reviewed the books, or at least the list, and the books were gone.
Among the familiar suspects like Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Beloved, the banned books also included 20 by a single author, Jodi Picoult, who writes novels for the young adult market.Picoult notes in an op-ed that the complaints — again, all from the one Moms for Censorship lady — inaccurately described all her books as "adult romance that should not be on school shelves." Picoult, who we suspect knows her books better than the mom who didn't read them, points out that most of the books that were targeted "do not even have a kiss in them.," but they do deal with social issues that make rightwingers sad, and they "encourage kids to think for themselves." Can't have that.
Picoult also notes that one of her books marked for culling was The Storyteller, a novel about the repercussions of the Holocaust.
It chronicles the growth of anti-Semitism and fascism in Nazi Germany. There was a strange irony that a parent wanted this particular book removed, because it felt a bit like history repeating itself.
Julie Marshall, the Mom for Purity who lodged the complaints, told the Washington Post by email, "At this point, we believe we have challenged the most obscene and age inappropriate books," but didn't specify what her issues with The Storyteller were. Apparently there's sex, including depictions of Nazi guards committing sexual assault , so maybe we wouldn't want kids thinking Nazis were rapists.
The removal of all those books meant that Tuesday night's Martin County school board meeting was packed, with about 200 people there. Many of the 40 who spoke at the meeting called for the books to be restored, although a few also worried about all the nasty sex in books available to high school readers, giving the very laziest local news stations an excuse to present one quote from each side and call it good coverage.
Marshall was there, in a Wonder Woman T-shirt, to explain that while she filed almost all the complaints, she works with many many concerned parents both locally and nationwide, and sadly she didn't actually say "There are dozens of us! Dozens!" But she did say
"If you guys want to continue making me out to be the sole parent in all of this and give me the power that I can have all these books removed and make me out to be Wonder Woman, so be it ... Persecute me for standing on morality, I really don't care."
We really do hope someone lets her know that Wonder Woman is a queer icon, that Lynda Carter thinks bigots suck, and that the character was created in the first place by William Moulton Marston, who lived very happily in a throuple and deliberately included a LOT of bondage references in the comic, what with that Lasso o' Truth and all. (He was also a lie-detector crank who always looked for a way to cash in on his dubious inventions, so there's that.) Marston included this illustration, by Harry G. Peter, of what a real Wonder Woman believes, in his article "Why 100,000 Americans Read Comics" in American Scholar (1943-44):
Image: Harvard College Library via NPR
Happily, among the many folks calling for freedom to read, there was a real wonder woman at the school board meeting, 100-year-old Grace Linn, who knows far too well why fascism has to be nipped in the bud whenever it arises. Her husband was killed in action fighting them in WW II, and by god she's not going to allow any book burners in her America, thank you very much.
Linn brought along a quilt she had made to honor books and ideas that the current round of fascists are trying to snuff out; in January, as America's censorship crusade was well under way, she had shared a photo of her quilt with MSNBC's Ali Velshi for his show's "Banned Book Club" feature.
The quilt includes censored titles like Beloved, Maus, Fahrenheit 451, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gender Queer, Two Boys Kissing, and more. Linn told Palm Beach TV station WPTV — one of the non-lazy ones! — "When I showed this to adult women, they'll say, 'Oh, no they didn't do that to The Color Purple. '"
A few highlights ( full transcript of Linn's remarks at AlterNet ):
Good afternoon folks. I am Grace Lynn. I am a hundred years young. 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 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. Even so, it is continually under attack by both the public and private groups who think they hold the truth.
Linn noted she'd made the quilt last year in reply to the Right's mania for book banning, and urged her fellow citizens not to knuckle under to today's fascists, who seek power by trying to make us afraid of other Americans:
Banned books, and burning books, are the same. Both are done for the same reason: fear of knowledge. Fear is not freedom. Fear is not liberty. Fear is control. My husband died as a father of freedom. I am a mother of liberty. Banned books need to be proudly displayed and protected from school boards like this. Thank you very much. Thank you.
And that's what we all need to be saying at every school and library board meeting in America, the end.
UPDATE: Well silly me, I didn't include anything about the school board's reactions to the two hours of public comment.According to the local paper, the board didn't take any action on the banned books at Tuesday's meeting, and no board members responded to the comments.
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