PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of October 2
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.
- Bestselling authors Laurie Halse Anderson, David Baldacci, Brit Bennett, Richard Blanco, Judy Blume, Ruby Bridges, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins, Michael Connelly, Gillian Flynn, Amanda Gorman, Nikki Grimes, Daniel Handler, Khaled Hosseini, David Levithan, Casey McQuiston, Brad Meltzer, Todd Parr, James Patterson, Jodi Picoult, Kathy Reichs, Nora Roberts, Reshma Saujani, and Mo Willems joined with PEN America to establish a presence in Florida to defend the freedom to read and learn in a state on the frontlines of the fight for free speech nationally. Join them and Stand With the Banned.
- PEN America celebrated the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to imprisoned Iranian writer, human rights activist, and 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award honoree Narges Mohammadi. Commenting on the award, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said the award “is a tribute to her courage and that of countless women and girls who have poured out into the streets of Iran and faced down one of the world’s most brutal and stubborn regimes, risking their lives to demand their rights.”
- On the fifth anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, PEN America decried the continuing lack of justice and warned of the far-reaching consequences of impunity in his case.
- For Banned Books Week, PEN America and We Believe gathered a consortium of publishers and nonprofit organizations to rally behind the freedom to read with this open letter. If you believe in these principles, send a letter to your state lawmakers to voice your opposition to book bans.
- PEN America also joined with Unite Against Book Bans and the Writers Guild Initiative for a social media campaign that included videos from Neil Gaiman, Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody, Kyra Sedgwick, Andrea Martin, Lewis Black, Wendie Malick, and everyday citizens who support the freedom to read. More than 250 people shared videos about the books that changed their lives.
- PEN America held several events around Banned Books Week, including at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where Jonathan Friedman moderated a discussion with authors Casey McQuiston and Cheryl Willis Hudson, with a live performance by Grammy-winning musician Joanie Leeds. Suzanne Nossel joined a conversation with playwright and screenwriter Richard Dresser as part of the Big Tent USA “Under the Tent” Speaker Series. Debi Goldman moderated a discussion with Brad Meltzer and Camryn Garrett in Miami. Allison Lee spoke in Los Angeles withAnthony Christian Ocampo, Carrie Bloxson of Hachette Book Group, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and Pickle of Drag Queen Story Hour Los Angeles. In New Jersey, Kasey Meehan appeared with librarian Martha Hickson and Brielle Winslow-Majette, deputy director of Garden State Equality. Summer Lopez appeared virtually with Ipek S. Burnett, Becky Calzada, Leela Hensler, and Nic Stone. Friedman appeared again in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with Deborah Mikula and Karsonya Wise Whitehead. PEN Utah held an event with Carmen Maria Machado in conversation with Jeremy Rosen. Meehan appeared again in Philadelphia with Sigal Ben-Porath and Samantha Hull.
- PEN America launched a new online resource for journalists, Facts Forward: A Journalist’s Guide to Combating Disinformation that provides tools, tips, and best practices to help journalists detect and report on disinformation.
- Allison Lee called it a “shocking overreaction” for the superintendent of California’s Escondido Union School District decided to close all libraries to audit the entire collection after a book with allegedly sexually explicit content was reported to staff.
- Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, called the American Anthropological Association and the Canadian Anthropology Society’s removal of a panel from their annual meeting program that focused on biological sex and gender identity in anthropological research “a drastic and concerning measure.”
- Moira Marquis, senior manager of PEN America’s Freewrite Project, criticized the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s apparent implementation of an “approved vendor” policy for its prisons, a type of censorship that PEN America opposes because it can seriously limit the flow of books to incarcerated people.