PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of January 22
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 response to American University’s release of new policies undermining free expression, PEN America’s Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of Free Expression and Education, voiced concerns about the restrictions on protests inside campus, requirements for posters to “promote inclusivity,” and vague membership rules for student clubs that limit open discourse.
- PEN America, in collaboration with 13 former college presidents as part of its Champions of Higher Education initiative, held a summit in Washington, D.C., addressing legislative threats to higher education, including educational gag orders.
- Sam LaFrance, manager of editorial projects for Free Expression and Education, wrote about Wisconsin’s AB 510, touted as promoting “parental rights” in public schools. She argues that it rather facilitates censorship by requiring advance notification to parents of any “controversial subject,” including gender identity, sexual orientation, and racial identity, threatening public education.
- For Los Angeles PEN Out Loud, we hosted Venita Blackburn joined by Steph Cha, to discuss her debut novel, Dead in Long Beach, California. A “bonafide knock-out,” Blackburn’s layered tale follows a woman– writer, sister, aunt– as the death of her brother begins to unravel the reality she knows and as she dives deeper into one she creates.
- PEN America Freedom to Read Director Kasey Meehan welcomed the Brevard County school board’s decision to retain “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut while highlighting concerns over the ongoing removal of “The Kite Runner” from shelves. PEN also shared the letter that Khaled Hosseini wrote to the school board, hoping his words resonate with the other books still under consideration.
- PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) announced its collaboration with the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition opens to the public on April 20 and runs until November 24.
- PEN America commended the passage of the PRESS Act (Protect Reporters from Excessive Suppression Act) in the U.S. House, emphasizing its importance in safeguarding press freedom by preventing the government from compelling journalists to disclose confidential sources.
- PEN America hosted Legendary artist Ai Weiwei at The Town Hall for PEN Out Loud, to celebrate his new book, Zodiac: A Graphic Memoir alongside Mira Jacob.
- Digital Security experts Victorya Vilk and Jeje Mohamed wrote about the pervasive issue of online abuse faced by writers and journalists, especially women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color, emphasizing on its impact on their mental health, physical well-being, and professional careers.
- Digital Security experts Victorya Vilk and Jeje Mohamed also compiled a toolkit for Ms Magazine, as a response to the online harassment that writers and artists face in the digital world.
- PEN Los Angeles hosted its annual New Year New Books past week, at the Sean Kelly Gallery LA and were joined by our board members Marvin Putnam and Jamie Wolf.