The 2021 PEN World Voices Festival convenes fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, translators, thinkers, and activists to honor the art of the possible and the power of storytelling to push boundaries, challenge inherited narratives, and give voice to hope, courage, and survival. In a year when division and bloodshed have been fueled by hatreds based on race, ethnicity, and religion, the Festival celebrates resilience and courage, and summons the powers of the radical imagination and literature as gateways to reckoning and reconciliation.
If you have any questions, please visit our FAQs. For a look back at the (fully digital) 2020 World Voices Festival and its suite of podcasts, videos, interviews, and musical playlists, please visit pen.org/worldvoicesdigital.
Worker Writers School 10th Anniversary Celebration & Book Release
Join us on International Workers Day, May 1, 2021, as we celebrate 10 years of partnership between PEN America and the Worker Writers School. In collaboration with Kenning Editions and Pilsen Community Books, we will be launching Coronavirus Haiku, the first anthology to come out of our longest-running writing program.
Opening Night: Tuesday, May 18
The People’s History: Writing the Wrongs
Nearly one year has passed since uprisings across the United States and around the world decried anti-Black violence. Amid the pandemic, surging anti-Asian hate crimes have led to a swell of activism within, and in support of, AAPI communities. In a riveting opening night conversation moderated by Maria Hinojosa of Latino USA, whose recent memoir Once I Was You intimately explored America’s ongoing immigration crisis, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Imbolo Mbue confront questions of how to reconcile our collective pasts, challenging and reframing contested histories underlying today’s inequities. 8pm ET/5pm PT
Wednesday, May 19
Thursday, May 20
Friday, May 21
Saturday, May 22
Arthur Miller Lecture: Richard Flanagan
Across his career, Tasmanian novelist and Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan has unearthed histories that are crucial to remember to avoid repeating. Flanagan closes this year’s festival with the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, delivering a profound meditation on the contagiousness of fear, the potentials and limits of literature to incite moral reckoning, and new, insidious modes of censorship that pose critical challenges to free expression. He will be joined in conversation by Alexandra Schwartz, an award-winning writer on arts and culture for The New Yorker. 8pm ET/5pm PT
Become a World Voices Festival Insider
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Indie Lit Fair
A virtual showcase of magazines and books published by independent literary publishers that resonate with this year’s festival’s theme, “Power to the People.”
Community & Regional Partners
Brazos Bookstore • Burdock Book Collective • Deep Vellum • Pilsen Community Books • Scuppernong Books • Skylight Books • Magic City Books • Strand Book Store • Word Up Community Bookshop