NEW YORK—PEN American Center brought together over 300 of New York’s most acclaimed writers, translators, editors, agents, and publishers to celebrate free expression Wednesday night at its annual New Members/New Books party at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.

Framed by nearly 200 new books published by PEN Members in 2014, co-hosts Mira Jacobs, Saeed Jones, Phil Klay, and Lisa Lucas mingled among distinguished and longstanding PEN Members such as Alexander Chee andTina Pohlman, as well as debut novelists including Marie-Helene Bertino and Catherine Lacey. Between tarot card readings and mini magic shows, guests enjoyed literary themed cocktails like the Henry James-inspired “Daisy Miller,” designed by New York Times cocktail columnist Rosie Schaap, and desserts provided by One Girl Cookie. PEN Member Marlon James, author of the acclaimed A Brief History of Seven Killings, curated the music for the evening.

The past year has been rife with painful reminders of how dangerous it can be to voice controversial viewpoints, most recently with the brutal attack waged against Charlie Hebdo in Paris. These incidents have strengthened the resolve of writers worldwide to protect their colleagues on the front lines of free expression, with more than 600 new members joining PEN in 2014—nearly double last year’s record-breaking growth.

“As writers, as readers, as global citizens, we deeply believe that our commitment to art must be in sync with our sense of justice,” said co-host Saeed Jones, Pushcart Prize-winning poet and editor at BuzzFeed LGBT. “Now more than ever, whether you are talking about LGBT rights here or abroad, women’s rights, journalism, or even police brutality, it is clear that we are in a cultural moment in which we have everything to gain and even more to lose if we do not recognize that freedom of expression is something that must be protected. I believe that is at the heart of PEN’s mission. That’s why I am here.”

PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel ended the night with a call to action, encouraging all in attendance to send a postcard to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani demanding the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who has been detained in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since July 2014 on unknown charges.

Photos from the evening are available at http://bit.ly/1zP0ZpH

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a community of 4,000 writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, and Susan Sontag. www.PEN.org

 

CONTACT

Paul W. Morris, Director of Literary Programs: (646) 779-4824, paul@pen.org

Sarah Edkins, Communications Manager: (646) 779-4830, sedkins@pen.org