PEN America works tirelessly to defend free expression, support persecuted writers, and promote literary culture. Here are some of the latest ways PEN America is speaking out.

  • In our new report, Banned in the USA: Narrating the Crisis, PEN America documented more than 4,300 book bans in the first half of the 2023-2024 school year — a number that surpassed the entire previous academic year. The report highlights the stories behind those numbers, with case studies showing continued hostility toward LGBTQ+ narratives, the silencing of speech about race, and more targeting of books that contain sexual violence. Jonathan Friedman, Sy Syms managing director of U.S. free expression and education programs, and Kasey Meehan, director of the freedom to read program, spoke about the report in media including The New York Times, CNN, and NPR.

  • PEN America President Jennifer Finney Boylan responded to letters received by PEN America and announced the formation of a working committee to review PEN America’s work.
  • PEN America filed an amicus brief in the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to continue to enjoin an Iowa state law that bans books with any depictions of sexual activity from school libraries (K-12).
  • In response to Columbia University’s mass arrests of pro-Palestinian students, Kristen Shahverdian, program director, Campus Free Speech, said: “It is disturbing to see a campus move so quickly to arrest students for peacefully expressing their political views within the free speech zone, and it is even more alarming that this action came amidst political pressure to crack down on pro-Palestinian expression on campus after yesterday’s hearing in the House.”
  • In response to an article in Prism Reports raising concern around Prison and Justice Writing contest winners not receiving award money, PEN America said it remains committed to the writers we serve and reached out directly to six writers who came to our attention as not having received checks in the 2020 to 2022 period, and in all but one case, reconciled payment of the contest prize money to them.

  • PEN America criticized the decision by the University of Southern California to cancel the valedictorian’s speech at this year’s commencement. “This amounts to a heckler’s veto – this student should have been given the opportunity to give the speech that valedictorians before her had the opportunity to give,” said Kristen Shahverdian, program director for campus free speech.
  • Random House Publishing Group and PEN America presented Salman Rushdie in conversation with Suleika Jaouad to share details of his recovery and his new memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder.

  • Our recent report, The Power of Peer Support, was featured in Journalist’s Resource: Report explores and recommends peer support networks for U.S. journalists facing online abuse.

See previous PEN America updates