Best-selling Author James Patterson Donates $2 Million to Help PEN America Raise its Reach, Voice, and Influence
Gift to Centenary Campaign Positions PEN America to Lead the Fight for Free Speech Into a New Century
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(NEW YORK)– James Patterson, the best-selling author, has donated $2 million to PEN America to build communications capacity and help the premier writers’ organization speak louder in defense of free expression against evolving threats in the United States, online, and around the world.
The gift to PEN America from the Patterson Family Foundation marks a milestone in the prolific author’s philanthropy with a total of $100 million donated to literacy causes. Patterson has long been an advocate for writers and reading, donating more than one million books to schools across the United States, cultivating the careers of thousands of teachers and young writers, fortifying classroom libraries around the country, and backing independent booksellers who needed money to keep operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gift is in support of PEN America’s centenary campaign, aimed to position the organization to lead the fight for free expression into a new century. PEN America stands at the vanguard of pitched public battles over book bans, gag orders on curriculum in higher education, disinformation, online harassment and hate speech, and the rise of authoritarianism around the globe. Patterson’s trailblazing gift will help set the pace as PEN America mobilizes its community of writers, editors and publishers to step up their support and equip the organization as force equal to the mounting threats to free speech and open discourse in the 21st century.
One week to the hour after an assassination attempt on the author Salman Rushdie, PEN America brought together 15 of his fellow writers to read excerpts from his books on the steps of The New York Public Library’s main branch in a public “Stand with Salman” show of support broadcast to millions online. When a Congressional committee heard testimony about efforts to censor classroom discussion, erase “objectionable” ideas, and ban books. PEN America was at the witness table and has continued its monitoring and advocacy and catalyzing an ongoing response. Most recently,, PEN America released a second report on the unprecedented books bans across the country: Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools. In this work, PEN America recognizes the vital importance of celebrating literature and elevating the voices of writers in public discourse.
Patterson said: “I’ve focused the entirety of my career on championing literacy. And that starts with ensuring that all people have access to all different types of books – books with different viewpoints and that celebrate different ideas. My hope is that this donation to PEN America will help them in their fight for free expression, which will ultimately benefit readers and writers everywhere.”
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said: “We are incredibly grateful to James Patterson for this catalytic gift which will help us increase our reach, voice and influence at a pivotal time in the battle for free speech. A master at connecting with audiences and telling compelling stories, Jim’s extraordinary generosity will help us build the capacity to reach more writers and readers and to convey the essence of pivotal issues in ways that galvanize our supporters and propel our campaigns to achieve concrete results. Amid a centenary campaign aimed to equip PEN America to lead the free expression fights of the future, Jim’s leadership will help pave the way to motivate other writers and members of the literary community to stand with PEN America and make possible our essential work.”
Patterson has been selling more books than any other living author for many years, with more than 400 million copies sold and 260 books on The New York Times bestseller list. His enduring fictional characters and series include Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, and Ali Cross.
ABOUT PEN America at Its Centenary
PEN America, founded in 1922, evolved from a collective of legendary writers animated by literary and human rights concerns into a global watchdog over the freedoms to speak, write, read, and learn. Standing at the intersection of human rights and literature, the organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.
The celebration began last May with the PEN America Literary Gala highlighted by the unveiling of a fireproof edition of Margaret Atwood’s bestseller The Handmaid’s Tale (sold by Sotheby’s for $130,000 to benefit PEN’s work). The year-long commemoration includes PEN America @ 100: A Century of Defending the Written Word, an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society through Oct. 9; a daylong public symposium on Sept. 12 in New York called “Words on Fire” that brought together literary stars including Margaret Atwood, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, Dave Eggers, Ayad Akhtar, and Jennifer Finney Boylan; and Flashpoints, a series of talks on free speech and civil rights in cities nationwide that continues through 2023. On five nights in September the renowned conceptual artist Julie Holzer paid tribute to PEN America with a powerful visual installation entitled SPEECH ITSELF that projected illuminations of prose and poetry text onto three buildings in Manhattan’s iconic Rockefeller Center.
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected]