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.

  • At our annual Literary Gala, we honored the indelible songwriting of icon Paul Simon with the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award for his bountiful and unparalleled songs and lyrics over a half century. Simon came to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and played and sang “American Tune,” which he wrote in 1972 after the re-election of Richard Nixon and with the Kent State shootings of student protesters fresh in his mind. “The mood today is uncomfortably similar to that time,” he said. 

  • Other honorees included Dow Jones CEO and Publisher of The Wall Street Journal Almar Latour, who has been at the forefront of efforts for more than a year to secure the release of Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from a Russian prison; mother-daughter Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who successfully sued to vindicate their reputations after being vilified and falsely accused of  election-related malfeasance in 2020, and Vietnamese writer Pham Doan Trang, imprisoned for her ideas about democracy and critiques of state repression.

  • Anh-Thu Vo wrote about this year’s Freedom to Write honoree, Pham Doan Trang, the imprisoned Vietnamese author and dissident, in Just Security, saying Tran “epitomizes the relentless struggle of many writers and activists for free expression in Vietnam.”
  • A delegation of PEN America staff held two very effective days of meetings in Washington with six congressional offices, the State Department, and civil society partners to advocate on Trang’s behalf.

  • PEN America signed a statement from the American Council of Learned Societies expressing concern about university leaders’ response to recent campus protests. “While administrators have every right and duty to secure the safety of their campus communities,” the statement reads in part, “suppressing the expression of unpopular or uncomfortable ideas by students or faculty engaged in peaceful protest does not do justice to the values at the heart of the university.”
  • CEO Suzanne Nossel spoke to The New York Times for a piece about PEN America grappling with dissent about the war in Gaza. “Defense of free speech, openness to wide-ranging views, faith in dialogue and a willingness to reckon with complexity — those for me are hallmarks of how we’ve gone about our work,” she said. 

See previous PEN America updates