New 2021 Gala Landing Page Hero (1)

The annual PEN America Literary Gala is a highlight of the New York literary and social calendars, with hundreds of guests and an exceptional group of leading writers who sit among them as Literary Hosts. Every year, it is an inspiring, exhilarating, moving event; we promise an unforgettable evening, and it never falls short. The proceeds from this dinner are crucial to PEN America’s dynamic cultural programming and critical advocacy work on behalf of free expression.

This year’s celebration took place Tuesday, October 5 at the American Museum of Natural History. You can watch the full program below, browse photos, and read remarks from our honorees and featured guests.

Watch the 2021 PEN America Literary Gala

Photo Highlights

Gala attendees posing at the red carpet

Ayad Akhtar 2021 Pen America Literary Gala

Ayad Akhtar’s Opening Remarks

“Part of the place we, as writers, have in the larger order of things is to help make sense of collective adversity—trauma, if you will. The great literature of the pandemic has yet to be published, maybe even yet to be written, but the trauma of this last 18 months is still very much with us. In convening tonight in person as writers, as lovers of literature, as supporters of freedom in so many senses, we hope to be playing a part in helping to move forward.”


2021 Honorees

Robert A. Iger, Corporate Honoree

Robert A. Iger, Corporate Honoree

Iger is Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Read More
Henry Louis Gates Jr., PEN/Audible Literary Service Award

Henry Louis Gates Jr., PEN/Audible Literary Service Award

Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University.
Read More
Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

Abtin, Bajan, and Khandan Mahabadi are three celebrated writers who have been imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for their writing, their defense of free expression, and their peaceful opposition to state censorship.
Read More
Gail Newel and Mimi Hall, PEN/Benenson Courage Award

Gail Newel and Mimi Hall, PEN/Benenson Courage Award

Newel is an obstetrician-gynecologist and public health physician with a drive for justice and equity in healthcare.
Hall began her early public health career in the mid-‘90s, working to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since 1999, she has worked continuously in California county public health departments.
Read More


Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster
Actor and Director

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Songwriter, Actor, and Director

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka
Playwright, Political Activist, and Nobel Laureate


Awkwafina headshot

Award-winning actress, writer, and producer

PEN America: Defending the Freedom to Write


Gold Sponsor
Willow Bay and Robert A. Iger • Hearst • Robert K. Kraft • Penguin Random House • The Walt Disney Company

Award Underwriters
Audible, Inc • Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust • Lawrence B. and Elyse Benenson

Roxanne Donovan and Tom Scarangello •  Patricia Fili-Krushel • Agnes Gund • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger and Alix L.L. Ritchie • Margaret Munzer Loeb • Annette L. Nazareth and Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. • Lynda and Stewart Resnick • Anya and Albert Salama • Andrew Solomon and John Habich Solomon • Jamie Wolf

 Ann and Richard Sarnoff Family Foundation • Arnold & Porter • Barnes & Noble • Amanda Bennett • Colette and Daniel Bennett • Nisha Kumar Behringer and Michael P. Behringer • Kimberly Morgan Blank • Bloomberg Philanthropies • BNP Paribas • Jennifer Finney Boylan • Jill Braufman and Daniel Nir • Beth Bugdaycay • Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg • The Chernin Group • Bridget Colman • Corporation for Public Broadcasting • Discovery, Inc. • Karin and Markus Dohle • Patricia Duff and Richard D. Cohen • Eden Productions • Jane B. and Michael D. Eisner • Lauren Embrey • Sarah, Sheree, and Jerry Friedman • Ashley Garrett and Alan Jones • Goldman Sachs • Hachette Book Group • Robie Harris • Tracy Higgins and James Leitner • The Holly Peterson Foundation • The IAC Foundation • Zachary Karabell • Mary and Sean Kelly & Family • Bobby Kotick •  Sandra Leong • Macmillan Publishers • McGee Media • Anne and Jay McInerney • Evangeline Morphos • Alexandra Munroe • Netflix • The New Yorker • Omnicom Media Group • Open Society Foundations • Zibby and Kyle Owens • PBS • Keri and Marvin Putnam • Seedlings Foundation • Pascaline Servan-Schreiber and Kevin Ryan • Ting Tsung & Wei Fong Chao Foundation • Suzy Wahba • Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Boaz Weinstein

Amazon Literary Partnership • Mila Atmos • Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP • Creative Artists Agency •  Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation • Lowenstein Sandler LLP • The Marc Haas Foundation • Other Press • ReaderLink • Simon and Schuster • Danielle Truscott •  WarnerMedia • Candace King Weir

Bertelsmann Printing Group • Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer • Brigitte and Evan Carzis • CBRE • Ron Chernow • Davis, Wright, and Tremaine LLP • Victoria and Tom Feder • Tom Healy and Fred P. Hochberg • Hines • ICM Partners • James Kirchick • Mattel • Marisa Matarazzo and Jamie Sher • Morgan Stanley • The New York Times • Valerie Rockefeller • Joanne S. and Daniel Rose • James Thackara • W. W. Norton & Company • Julian Yap

Gala Committee Co-Chairs
Markus Dohle • Roxanne Donovan • Sean Kelly • Anya Salama

Gala Committee Members
Pamela and Peter Barbey • Willow Bay • Lawrence B. and Elyse Benenson • Amanda Bennett • Colette and Daniel Bennett • Kimberly Morgan Blank • Jennifer Finney Boylan • Beth Bugdaycay • John Chao • Bridget Colman • Patricia Duff • Jennifer Egan • Patricia Fili-Krushel • Sandra Leong • Sheree and Jerry Friedman • Judith Gurewich • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger • Tracy Higgins • Tom Healy and Fred P. Hochberg • Alan Jones and Ashley Garrett • Zachary Karabell • Margaret Munzer Loeb • Yvonne Marsh • Jay McInerney • Evangeline Morphos • Alexandra Munroe • Annette L. Nazareth and Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. • Holly Peterson • Michael Pietsch • Marvin Putnam • Alix L.L. Ritchie • Andrew Solomon • Suzy Wahba • Jamie Wolf

Learn more about our annual Literary Gala and see recaps of prior year’s celebrations, including our 2020 Virtual Gala.

Support PEN America

Our PEN America Literary Gala provides the essential resources we need to defend the freedom to write worldwide. Please consider making a donation in support of this vital work. Thank you.