Miami Book Fair: The Freedom to Read & Write
Join Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and PEN Miami/South Florida, at the Miami Book Fair to discuss freedom of expression in the U.S. and around the world and PEN’s role in addressing this current censorious moment. Nossel will be joined by South Florida educator Renee O’Connor, and Ben Fountain, recipient of the PEN Hemingway Award and author of Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution and his latest, Devil Makes Three: A Novel. This conversation will be moderated by Oren Teicher, former CEO of the American Booksellers Association.
Suzanne Nossel currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization, and she is the author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. Since joining in 2013, she has doubled the organization’s staff, budget, and membership, spearheaded the unification with PEN Center USA in Los Angeles and the establishment of a Washington, D.C. office, and overseen groundbreaking work on free expression in Hong Kong and China, Myanmar, Eurasia, and the United States. She is a leading voice on free expression issues in the United States and globally, writing and being interviewed frequently for national and international media outlets. Her prior career spanned government service and leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch and as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.
Ben Fountain was born in Chapel Hill and grew up in the tobacco country of eastern North Carolina. A former practicing attorney, he is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and the novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Billy Lynn was adapted into a feature film directed by three-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His series of essays published in The Guardian on the 2016 U.S. presidential election was subsequently nominated by the editors of The Guardian for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife of 32 years, Sharon Fountain.
Renee O’Connor is an African-American history teacher in Miami, Florida. She grew up in Miami Gardens and was a 1st generation college student who graduated from Florida State University with a degree in International Affairs and a minor in Black Studies. Inspired by a speech in which President Obama talked about the state of public education in America, she applied and was accepted to the Teach For America program and was placed at Miami Norland Senior High in the fall of 2011.
She was one of the four finalists out of 18,000 teachers in Miami Dade for the Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year 2022-2023, and she is currently on sabbatical obtaining her master’s in Instructional Systems and Learning Technology from Florida State University with plans to graduate in the Summer of 2024.
Last month, Renee traveled with the Community Justice Project to Geneva, Switzerland, to testify in front of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at the United Nations during its review of the United States Human Rights contract. She spoke directly to the ICC on how she believes the state of Florida is infringing upon the freedom of expression of their citizens, in particular, teachers who teach African American History.
Oren J. Teicher is the former Chief Executive Officer of the American Booksellers Association, the national trade association for independent booksellers, and he has been working on behalf of independent bookstores for more than thirty years, beginning in 1990 as the ABA Associate Executive Director, then as Director of Government Affairs, as the founding President of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and, through 2009, as ABA’s Chief Operating Officer. He was appointed as ABA’s CEO in 2009. Teicher has played an integral part in ABA’s IndieBound program, Local First initiatives, and he works closely with independent business alliance boards and other independent retail trade associations. He has forged relationships with bookseller associations around the world; and has served as an officer of the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF).
Teicher has received numerous awards and recognition for his work; including being named Publishers Weekly’s Person of the Year in 2013.
Before joining ABA, Teicher was the Director of Corporate Communications for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and he served for many years as a senior staffer in the U.S. Congress.
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