A Conversation with Chris Tomlinson and Ashley Hope Pérez
This event is part of PEN America’s celebration of Banned Books Week.
Learn more about PEN America’s advocacy against book bans and championing the freedom to learn.
Writer and editor Chris Tomlinson (coeditor of Forget the Alamo) and young adult author Ashley Hope Pérez (author of Out of Darkness) come together for this special conversation to discuss recent threats to free expression in Texas. The discussion will unpack controversies including the recently canceled Forget the Alamo book event at the Bullock Texas State History Museum as well as the recent and expansive book ban in Texas’s Leander Independent School District, which includes Pérez’s Out of Darkness.
Chris Tomlinson is the author of two New York Times bestsellers and a columnist for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. His latest book, Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, was co-written with Bryan Burrough and Jason Stanford and deconstructs the Texas origin myth to reveal the truth behind the state’s legends. His previous bestseller, Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families who Share the Tomlinson Name-One White, One Black, examines the history of race in America from the family’s 1850s Texas slave plantation to the present day. Tomlinson writes commentary about energy, business, and policy three times a week, drawing on his 25 years of reporting experience.
Previously, Tomlinson was the supervisory correspondent for The Associated Press in Austin, responsible for Texas government and politics reporting. From 2001 to 2009, he was a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press and served as the East Africa bureau chief in Nairobi, Kenya. Tomlinson has reported from more than 30 countries, including Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Congo. Before becoming a journalist, he spent seven years in the U.S. Army. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1992 with special honors in humanities. Tomlinson currently serves on the board of advisers of the Texas Book Festival and two contemporary art organizations in Austin, Co-Lab Projects and The Museum of Human Achievement.
Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the young adult novels Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), The Knife and the Butterfly (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012) and What Can’t Wait (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011). Her debut novel, What Can’t Wait, won a spot on the 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adult list, and The Knife and the Butterfly was included in the 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks list. Pérez grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing, and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their son, Liam Miguel.
Jonathan Friedman is the director of free expression and education at PEN America, where he oversees advocacy, analysis, and outreach to educational communities and academic institutions. In this role, he drives forward PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture through free expression education for the rising generation and the general public. Friedman served as lead author on PEN America’s 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and on the production of its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. He regularly provides commentary on campus free speech issues for national news media, has facilitated workshops, and has conducted advisory meetings with students, faculty, and administrators at dozens of colleges and universities across the United States.