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.

  • PEN America announced that its Literary Awards on April 29 will honor legendary playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner as this year’s recipient of the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award. The Academy Award-nominated writer and comedian Jena Friedman will host as we recognize the late novelist and critic Maryse Condé with the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, playwright Guadalís Del Carmen with the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award, and poet and translator Suzanne Jill Levine with the PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation. Our full longlist of award nominees can be viewed here

  • PEN America announced that its World Voices Festival, now in its 20th year since its founding by Salman Rushdie and others in the wake of 9/11, will feature 35 events with more than 100 writers, among them our current president Jennifer Finney Boylan with her co-author Jodi Picoult, Roxane Gay, Min Jin Lee, Patrick Radden Keefe, Rita Dove, Carmen Boullosa, James McBride, and Leigh S Bardugo.

  • Rushdie and his fellow past presidents of PEN America Ayad Akhtar, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Louis Begley, Joel Conarroe, Jennifer Egan, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Godwin, and Andrew Solomon reminded our community of the essential need for the festival in our times of greatest discord, writing that “as vitriolic and violence has surged, the visionary purpose  behind the festival has only grown more urgent.”
  • PEN America announced that Vietnamese author-blogger-journalist Pham Doan Trang will receive the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, an honor given last year to Narges Mohammadi, who went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Trang has been persecuted and jailed Trang in an effort to still her voice on democracy, human rights, environmental degradation, and women’s empowerment.

  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection in collaboration with UNESCO and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations hosted the event Defending Creative Voices: Protection of Artists in Times of Emergencies at the United Nations Headquarters. Bringing together renowned experts and artists, the event raised awareness among UN Member States and civil society actors about the impact of emergency situations on writers and artists, as well as to call for enhanced coordination and comprehensive efforts to defend artistic freedom during crises. A reception followed the event, featuring a performance by DJ Switch and a visit to the exhibition “Culture under Attack: Safeguarding Heritage in Emergency.” The live stream is available here

  • Freedom to Read Program Director Kasey Meehan spoke to NPR about  librarians in Prattville, Alabama, who lost their jobs over book challenges.
  • Interim Washington Director Hadar Harris spoke at the Conference on World Affairs at University of Colorado, Boulder. Among the panels on which she spoke was, “Freedom of Expression: Don’t Tell Me What to Say, Read, or Think”

  • Jonathan Friedman, Sy Syms managing director of U.S. free expression and education programs writes: A Mississippi Teacher was Terminated for Reading a Book. Time to Reverse that Decision about Toby Price, an educator who was dismissed for reading a book called “I Need a New Butt!” to second graders. 

See previous PEN America updates