(New York NY)– PEN America is establishing a new fund in partnership with Markus Dohle, the CEO of Penguin Random House, to combat, in real-time, the rising threats to freedom of speech and open discourse within communities nationwide.

The Dohle Book Defense Fund is launching in honor of the organization’s centenary this year. The fund will boost PEN America’s initiatives to educate the public, partner with local community groups to advocate against censorship, track and expose the egregious assaults on books and ideas playing out in classrooms, state legislatures and other arenas. 

You can read The New York Times piece detailing the new fund here.

Dohle, galvanized by his background growing up in postwar Germany and his experience working in restrictive countries when it comes to free speech, is promising to donate at least $500,000 to establish the new fund in an effort to help preserve open discourse and defend the place of books as a pillar of American democracy and society. Dohle has a long history partnering with PEN America, having served on the organization’s Board of Trustees since 2016 and serving as the Board’s executive vice president. 

PEN America has been a leader in advancing free expression and open access to literature for the past 100 years. In recent months, the organization has been at the forefront of fighting back against the flood of politically-motivated efforts to censor bookshelves in schools and issue gag orders against teachers to prevent discussion of Black history, race, gender, LGBTQ+ progress, and other issues. PEN America continually tracks the use of gag orders across the country, and will also soon be launching a report tracking individual books bans.

“We’re dealing with new challenges and bans every week, and these efforts are enmeshed in a larger political battle over the narratives that are accessible in this country,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “Given his background, Markus is deeply attuned to the dark sides that lurk within a society and how things can turn around quickly. With his support, PEN America is poised to continue leading the fight to uphold and protect the role of books in society.”

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Suzanne Trimel, communications and media consultant, STrimel@PEN.org