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.

  • After dozens of interviews and extensive internal debate, this week PEN America published Booklash: Literary Freedom, Online Outrage, and the Language of Harm. The report examines cases where publishers or authors voluntarily pulled back books from publication or circulation, and finds that these incidents, although rare, are driven by the same language of harm that has been used to yank books from shelves in Florida and elsewhere. 
  • Summer Lopez discussed book banning at Monadnock Summer LyceumAuthoritarians silence the most vulnerable voices first so that you might get used to it, but it’s highly unlikely to stop there,” she said. “And authoritarians go after books and writers because words and stories are powerful—they allow people to imagine a different, better world. 

  • One year after author Salman Rushdie was severely wounded in a knife attack, PEN America expressed gratitude for his recovery. “He brings a sharply distilled moral clarity to our discourse, an essential contribution in an age of obfuscation and uncertainty.”
  • PEN America sharply criticized approval by the New College of Florida trustees to close the public college’s gender studies department. Jeremy C. Young, Freedom to Learn program director, called it “a repressive act that echoes the actions of a repressive foreign government.”
  • PEN America expressed distress over the decision by Indiana’s Hamilton East Public Library to move more than 1,300 Young Adult books to its adult section. “Teens have books that are written with them in mind; that is precisely what a YA collection is about,” said Free Expression and Education programs director Jonathan Friedman.
  • Justin Shilad, research and advocacy lead for the Middle East and North Africa, said reports that the Israeli government has frozen higher education preparation funding for Palestinian students in Jerusalem “is a further effort to entrench a separate and unequal system of education that deprives Palestinians of their fundamental rights.”
  • Justin Shilad also spoke to Voice of America about how “Barbie” is in the crosshairs of growing censorship in Lebanon. “It’s ridiculous and deadly serious at the same time,” he said.
  • Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of free expression and education, urged the state of California to allow Stanford University researchers Sean Reardon and Thomas Dee to testify about learning losses during the Covid-19 pandemic after the state’s Department of Education attempted to block their testimony.
  • PEN America raised concern over the growing repression and persecution of writers and intellectuals in Belarus, and called for the reversal of blatant infringements of free expression. “Silencing writers must cease,” said Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia and advocacy director.
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) posted a profile on Grammo Suspect – Rainbow Ambassador Kenya, who is a rapper making music in support of LGBTQIA+ rights in Kenya.

See previous PEN America updates