Just Press Play

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting millions of people’s lives in unprecedented ways, PEN America’s World Voices Festival launches a new playlist series with songs selected by some of our favorite authors from around the world.

Every week, Just Press Play brings the soundtracks of poets and novelists’ writing lives into homes and offices everywhere. From the balconies of Milan to the speakers of our smartphones, these playlists remind us all that music, like books, can connect humanity from a distance.

Just Press Play with Laila LalamiOur first playlist comes from Laila Lalami, the Moroccan writer whose most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a nationwide bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction:

“I write this from California, where the governor has mandated that we shelter in place for several weeks in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The virus strikes indiscriminately, but the risk of infection and the chance of recovery are not shared equally by all. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated problems in American society: the poor, the uninsured, the incarcerated or detained are being hit harder than others. In these times, music has been a source of comfort and companionship, particularly the songs below, which have been on heavy rotation in my house.”

Check out her playlist on Spotify and YouTube today, and pre-order her newest book, Conditional Citizens, on Amazon or Indiebound.

Laila’s Favorite: “Sleep Now in the Fire” from Rage Against the Machine

About Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The Nation, Harper’s, The Guardian, and The New York Times. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens, will be published by Pantheon in 2020.

Join us next week for a playlist from Tommy Pico, the Whiting Award-winning author of Feed and co-host of the hit podcast “Food 4 Thot.”