PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of March 11

By: Manal Khan

March 15, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 Florida director Katie Blankenship wrote that in the recent legislative session in Florida, PEN America’s advocacy led to several wins, including successfully opposing a bill that aimed to make it easier for public figures to sue journalists, a measure that sought to ban gay pride flags and other protected speech, and a bill that would penalize students for “promoting” foreign terrorist organizations.
  • Laura Schroeder, the Congressional Affairs lead for PEN America, criticized the House’s passage of a bill to ban TikTok, stating it sets a troubling precedent and urging the Senate to reject it or for President Biden to veto it. PEN America signed a letter with other advocacy organizations expressing deep concern over the bill’s violation of free speech rights and its potential to empower authoritarian practices internationally.
  • As civic discourse and social cohesion continue to face considerable headwinds amid worsening political polarization in the United States, PEN America endorsed the reintroduction of the Building Civic Bridges Act, which seeks to address political polarization and fragmentation.
  • Moira Marquis, Senior Manager at the PEN America Free Write project, celebrated the publication of Books Through Bars: Stories from the Prison Books Movement, a collection of inspiring stories from the prison book movement and a guide for people who want to swell its ranks. Read more about her book in a Q and A here!
  • Blankenship welcomed the settlement in Equality Florida v. Florida State Board of Education regarding HB 1557, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, saying it would protect classrooms from some of the bill’s most dangerous implications. But she said PEN America would continue to fight against the law’s chilling effect on protected expression.
  • Jonathan Friedman and Elly Brinkley wrote about the rights of free speech for professors outside classrooms, focusing on the case of Professor Jairo Fúnez-Flores at Texas Tech University, whose social media posts led to allegations of antisemitism and discriminatory harassment.
  • PEN America warned that Florida’s passage of House Bill 3, requiring parental consent for minors to use social media, likely violates the First Amendment and imposes unnecessary restrictions on free speech, urging Governor Ron DeSantis to veto the bill to prevent further censorship and potential costly litigation.
  • Jeremy C Young and Jacqueline Allain wrote for University News about why Americans must speak up to defend university autonomy. 

See previous PEN America updates

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of March 4

By: Manal Khan

March 8, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 will honor songwriting legend Paul Simon with the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award at the 2024 PEN America Literary Gala to celebrate his indelible lyrics, boundless contributions to our canon and elevation of essential cultures over nearly six decades. Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, will receive the Business Visionary award, reflecting his company’s commitment to the free press and persistence in demanding the release of Evan Gershkovich, the Journal reporter jailed in Russia. 
  • PEN America CEO made an appearance on PBS, interviewed by Amanpour and Company, talking about the “The Real Culture Wars” Between Democracy and Autocracy. 

  • PEN America strongly criticized the recent passage of House Bill 1291 by the Florida Senate, expressing concern that the legislation would stifle professors, curriculum, and classroom discussions on critical issues like race and gender in college-level teacher preparation programs. Katie Blankenship, Director of PEN America Florida, emphasized that the legislation restricts education on crucial issues, lacks clarity in defining terms, and ultimately weakens the public education system.
  • PEN America welcomed the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold a preliminary injunction against Florida’s Stop WOKE Act, condemning its “blatant viewpoint discrimination.” In the ruling of Honeyfund.com Inc. vs. DeSantis, the court asserts the Act’s infringement on employer training’s constitutionality, marking a victory for free expression and speech.
  • PEN America, alongside seven other non-partisan organizations, submitted a letter to the Florida Legislature denouncing the newly amended House Bill 3 (HB 3). The coalition, including the ACLU of Florida, the Trevor Project, and NetChoice, argues that the bill, seeking to restrict minors’ access to social media with parental consent for users aged 14 or 15, is overly vague and violates Floridians’ right to privacy. 
  • Kasey Meehan and Sam LaFrance from Freedom to Read wrote about the threat that the book-banning movement brings to topics related to sexual violence in books. “A quarter of over 3,000 book bans that PEN America recorded were books with scenes of rape or sexual assault. Of the 12 most frequently banned titles, five contained scenes of rape or sexual assault: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Sold by Patricia McCormick, and Identical by Ellen Hopkins. The erasure of books on sexual abuse is striking amid an epidemic of sexual violence.”
  • Katie Blankenship, Director of PEN America Florida also wrote about the recent tide of censorship bills in the Florida Legislature this session and the evident crack in this latest wave. 
 

See previous PEN America updates

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of February 26

By: Manal Khan

March 1, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 condemned attempts by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy and State Rep. Brian Harrison to interfere with Texas A&M’s academic programs, emphasizing the importance of preserving academic freedom and open debate in universities.
  • A coalition of 20 education, rights, and faith-based organizations, including PEN America, urged Florida lawmakers to reject Senate Bill 1372, a proposed legislation mirroring the Stop WOKE Act from 2022, which was previously blocked for violating the First Amendment. 
  • Director of Free Expression and Education Programs Jonathan Friedman testified that New York’s libraries serve as a model for how public libraries can facilitate “an equitable and inclusive democracy for all.”
  • Kasey Meehan, program director, Freedom to Read, joined PEN Canada, Ontario School Libraries Association, Centre for Free Expression/Ontario Library Association, and Ottawa Public Library in a discussion on book bans during Canada’s Freedom to Read Week.  
  • The Freedom to Read Program hosted our monthly Author Briefing in partnership with Authors Against Book Bans, hosting over 40 authors to talk about current legislative attacks on the freedom to read.
  • PEN America’s Digital Safety team hosted a bystander intervention training with Right to Be, held several online defense trainings, and participated in the Web Foundation consultation on tech facilitated gender based online violence, a discussion gathering global civil society representatives and tech policy experts to establish a series of minimum standards for policymaking on online gender-based violence.
 

See previous PEN America updates

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of February 19

By: Manal Khan

February 23, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 sharply criticized the decision by Catholic University to fire a lecturer after a guest speaker invited to her class spoke about abortion in response to student questions. The free expression advocacy organization called on the university to reverse the firing saying it was a “gross violation of academic freedom.”
  • In response to the public hearing at the Royal Court of Justice in London regarding Julian Assange’s appeal of his extradition order to the United States, PEN America strongly condemned the charges he might be facing under the US Espionage Act, which continues to pose an alarming threat to press freedom.  

  • PEN America, the National Coalition Against Censorship, Read Freely Alabama, and EveryLibrary today called on the Autauga-Prattville Library Board (AL) to reverse its new policy prohibiting all children’s and young adult books related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and relevant issues. The groups called the new policy discriminatory and urged the Prattville Library to uphold the freedom to read for all its patrons.

 

See previous PEN America updates

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of February 12

By: Manal Khan

February 16, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 mourned the death of 47-year-old Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died a political prisoner in a Russian penal colony. PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said Navalny “embodied the spirit of a free Russia with a spine of steel, unremitting determination and a spirit of derring-do.”
  • PEN America urged Congress to pass landmark legislation to protect human rights defenders abroad as they face reprisals from their governments. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA-02) introduced the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act that would create a new visa category allowing up to 500 human rights defenders a year facing reprisals at home to enter the United States. 
  • Anh-Thu Vo, research and advocacy coordinator from PEN America, alongside PEN International and the Vietnamese PEN Abroad Centre, delivered an oral statement at the Fourth UPR Cycle pre-session in Geneva on February 13 providing recommendations to protect writers and dissidents at risk in Vietnam. This statement aligned with our joint UPR submission.
  • PEN America CEO, Suzanne Nossel wrote for the Boston Globe about the threats to free speech, academic freedom, and ideological diversity on university campuses. She suggests that they can only be addressed through broad, campus-wide reforms across areas like orientation programs, classroom teaching, extracurricular training, messaging, and policies enforced by leadership to transform campus culture to support open exchange. 
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) was a partner for the PANAF Summit, the first regional gathering on artistic freedom in Africa. ARC’s Africa Regional Representative, Sam Brakarsh, attended the Summit in Zanzibar and presented ARC and the AMANI Network’s work and developing strategy in the region. 
  • ARC convened an Experts Meeting on Cultural Rights and Development. The session commenced with a dialogue surrounding participants’ international advocacy objectives for 2024 about cultural rights. This forthcoming meeting will center on the Special Rapporteur’s involvement and strategic approach in addressing the ongoing crisis in Gaza.
  • In late 2023, PEN America submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine detailing Russia’s extensive attacks on Ukrainian cultural infrastructure. 
  • PEN America and PEN International jointly submitted a contribution to the United Nations Independent Expert’s report on the root causes of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This submission focuses on legislative threats to free expression in United States public educational institutions.
  • PEN America condemned the unjust conviction and sentencing of Chinese labor and women’s rights activist Li Qiaochu. Li, who is the partner of imprisoned activist, essayist, and PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write awardee Xu Zhiyong
  • PEN America hosted our former President, Jennifer Egan, for a talk with the staff, where she discussed her process as a writer and the use of language. Read more here. 
  • PEN America, joined by a coalition of authors – including Khaled Hosseini, Maia Kobabe, and Molly Knox Ostertagsent a letter to Rockingham County, Virginia, Public Schools protesting a recent ban on over 50 books and urging that the district return these books to shelves.
  • In response to the ongoing investigation into Harvard University by the House Education and Workforce Committee, Jeremy Young, director, of the Freedom to Learn program at PEN America said: “This investigation is turning into a fishing expedition. The charges of antisemitism at Harvard are serious and demand urgent action. But when a congressional committee begins probing the internal affairs of a private university, it must act with great restraint, and the utmost respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy.”
  • Sam LaFrance, Free Expression and Education editorial project manager wrote about the legislators in Nebraska who are trying to undermine higher education in the state in the name of destroying “woke” ideologies. Two bills would threaten tenure, academic freedom, and university autonomy. If passed, the bills would put the future of higher education in Nebraska in serious doubt.
  • PEN America Digital Safety team conducted a training for Scholastic for authors and another with Internews for women journalists in exile.

See previous PEN America updates

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of February 5

By: Manal Khan

February 9, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 criticized Barnard College for quietly rewriting its policy to prohibit departments from posting “political statements” in an apparent effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech. “The swift rollout of these new website policies, without faculty consultation, makes plain that they are a response to pro-Palestinian speech that someone wanted to suppress,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America. 
  • PEN America issued a statement condemning a Missouri political candidate for torching LGBTQ-themed books, our Freedom to Read Director, Kasey Meehan, called it “appalling” and said it “brings to mind a violent history of suppression and denigration of books, ideas, and LGBTQ people.” 
  • Sam LaFrance our Free Speech and Education expert, wrote about the six bills in various states that impose restrictions related to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, critical race theory, and other issues in public higher education, likely chilling academic freedom and campus free speech through vague definitions and penalties threatening free expression. 
  • PEN America expressed anguish about the impact of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on writers, artists, and culture and said they would continue efforts to protect imperiled artists and writers while speaking out on threats to free expression from the conflict.
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) strongly condemned the arbitrary detention of Iranian rapper Vafa Ahmadpour and called for his immediate release. Vafa Ahmadpour’s arrest is another terrible example of the unjust persecution faced by rappers and artists like Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin, who dare speak out against government policies.
  • Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America’s Florida office condemned the two bills introduced in the Florida Legislature, HB 757 and SB 1780, which are blatant attempts to undermine freedom of the press. “These bills seek to instill fear in journalists and their sources, chilling constitutionally protected speech.”
  • PEN America strongly condemned the Chinese court’s decision to give Australian novelist, pro-democracy blogger, and political commentator Yang Hengjun a suspended death sentence and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
  • PEN America and PEN International jointly submitted a contribution to the Special Rapporteur’s report on academic freedom and free expression in educational institutions. This submission will focus largely on threats to academic freedom in the United States, but it also includes a small section on international scholar-writers and trends in threats against their academic freedom.

 

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of January 29

By: Manal Khan

February 2, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 hosted an author’s event in Los Angeles on Wednesday for the launch of writer and comedian Moshe Kasher’s new memoir, Subculture Vulture.  The event was interrupted by protests that eventually prevented the programming from proceeding. While most protesters left after expressing themselves, one declined and was removed by security. We regret that this step had to be taken for the event to proceed.
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection hosted the panel “Empowerment of Ukrainian Artistry,” moderated by ARC’s Representative for Ukraine Protective Programs, Oleksandra Yakubenko at the Ukraine Vision conference in Stockholm.
  • PEN America Florida Director Katie Blankenship and free expression expert Sam LaFrance, wrote about their concern with a string of bills that would unfavorably impact free speech and free expression, freedom of the press, young people’s use of social media, and LGBTQ+ rights.
  • PEN America Editorial Director Lisa Tolin compiled a list of 30 films you can watch, based on books that were challenged by censorship in the U.S.
  • Kasey Meehan, the Freedom to Read program director at PEN America, appeared on the Eagle Reels vodcast to discuss the latest movement to ban books and Berkshire County’s case involving the most banned book in America.
  • Meehan also spoke to Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian about book bans.
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection proudly 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’s Artists at Risk Connection published a profile on Burmese multimedia artist and painter Thiha and the risks he took to continue creating art.
  • PEN America condemned the Russian government for placing London-based Grigory Chkhartishvili, better known under his pen name Boris Akunin, on its wanted list for alleged criminal activity. Akunin, a best-selling author of historical detective fiction and one of Russia’s most popular novelists, has been an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s atrocities committed in Ukraine.

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of January 22

By: Manal Khan

January 26, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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.

    Photos: Jasmina Tomic

  • 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.

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of January 15

By: Manal Khan

January 19, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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 convened a Free Speech Summit at Harvard University, where CEO Suzanne Nossel emphasized the need for universities, including Harvard, to address the crisis of young people feeling unable to express themselves, stating that Harvard could be a leader in upholding free speech values, while the panel discussed the challenges of navigating difficult conversations and the impact of cancel culture, to build intellectual vitality on campus.

  • Dietlind Lerner, our Communications Consultant wrote about how she and her transgender daughter bonded over a drag queen reality show: How RuPaul Changed My Life. 
  • Suzanne Trimel, Senior Communications and Media Advisor wrote about Bill O’Reilly’s switch to advocating against book bans after his book was banned in Florida, where over 1,600 books, were banned due to vague wording in the state’s law, HB 1069, with the organization actively suing Escambia County in federal court to contest the censorship, a case that has been allowed to proceed by a federal judge.
  • and wrote about the twenty-five books that have been banned in Marietta, Georgia since September 2023 over the objections of parents in the district. 
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) released the Russian translation of A Safety Guide for Artists. ARC has witnessed a momentous surge in applications for assistance from Russian and Belarusian artists. The intense and sustained repression against artists and cultural professionals expressing anti-war sentiments or who are considered dissidents of the Lukashenko and Putin regimes has resulted in urgent demand for a version of the Safety Guide that is accessible to Russian speakers.

  • PEN America strongly condemned the persistent judicial harassment of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write awardee Narges Mohammadi and demanded an immediate cessation of the punitive measures inflicted upon her as a result of her writing and activism conducted while in Evin prison.
  •  PEN America’s ARC participated in the Censurados Film Festival in Peru by hosting a panel discussion titled “Cinematic Narratives in Conflict Contexts: Experiences from Mexico and Peru.” The discussion delved into the intersection between documentary production and conflicts in Mexico and Peru, where attacks on communities and territories through organized crime, extractivism, and governmental projects have given rise to powerful cinematic narratives that challenge hegemonic opinions and trends.

  •  ARC published a blog post reflecting on ARC’s women’s workshop hosted in Bogota, Colombia in December.
  • ARC published a thread on X responding to the distressing comments from a key drafter of Iran’s pending bill – the “Protection of Family Through Promotion of Hijab and Chastity Culture” which has led to rising tensions among Iranian artists.

  •  ARC published a thread on X responding to the harsh sentencing of Myanmar’s award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist, Shin Daewe who was sentenced to life in prison under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

  • PEN Out Loud kicks off the 2024 programming season featuring legendary artist Ai Weiwei in the only U.S. appearance for the launch of his first work of graphic nonfiction, Zodiac: A Graphic Memoir joined in conversation with novelist, memoirist, illustrator, and cultural critic, Mira Jacob.

  • PEN America responded and supported an injunction by the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals against a Texas law (HB 900) mandating sexual content ratings for school books, emphasizing that blocking the flawed statute protects booksellers from intrusive rating systems, and expressing relief that the injunction safeguards the fundamental right to read for students in Texas, while also highlighting the absurdity and dangers of the proposed rating system.
  • See previous PEN America updates

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of Jan. 8

By: Lisa Tolin

January 16, 2024

Advocacy, News & Analysis

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.

  • A federal judge in Florida allowed  PEN America’s first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit against book bans in Escambia County to proceed. Our lawsuit, filed with Penguin Random House, banned authors, and parents and students in the district, claims these bans violate the First Amendment and engage in unlawful viewpoint discrimination. We also published a list of more than 1,600 of Escambia County’s banned books, including the dictionary.
  • PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel wrote for CNN that DEI and free speech can go hand in hand.
  • Freedom to Learn Program Director Jeremy C. Young and Jeffrey Adam Sachs wrote about an emerging legislative agenda from supporters of educational censorship: going after the institutions and practices that make academic freedom possible.
  • Florida Director Katie Blankenship and Young wrote about dangerous reform of higher education in Florida, where a new Florida regulation could prevent professors or students at the state’s universities from discussing women’s health, race and racism, environmentally sustainable practices, or even politics.
  • Young wrote for the Hill that higher education needs to reform itself. It also needs to defend itself.
  • Young also wrote with Jacqueline Allain in Governing, arguing that cuts to the arts and humanities are a free expression issue.
  • Research Program Manager Ryan Howzell wrote about extremism as a topline concern for journalists ahead of the 2024 elections.
  • Free Expression and Education Manager Kristen Shahverdian was interviewed about the free speech debate after the resignation of Harvard’s Claudine Gay.
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) shared their vision for developing a culture of safety.
  • PEN America called for the reinstatement of an Indiana University professor who was suspended after he reportedly failed to accurately fill out a form for a lecture involving an Israeli-American writer and activist, which the University subsequently denied. 
  • PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) urgently called on the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University (IU) to reinstate the planned inaugural U.S. retrospective exhibition of Palestinian artist Samia Halaby, calling its cancellation “an alarming affront to free expression.”
  • ARC called for charges to be dropped against Iranian musician Mehdi Yarrahi, who has been sentenced to two years imprisonment and seventy-four lashes for his song “Roosarito” (Your Head Scarf). 
  • In this week’s PEN Ten, 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award winner Hisham Matar talks about his third and latest novel about life in exile, My Friends, the figure of the writer, and the “emotional country” that friendship becomes when you cannot return home.

See previous PEN America updates