Additional New Festival Events Include appearances by writers Viet Thanh Nguyen, Margo Jefferson, Iranian singer Mohsen Namjoo, and acclaimed Cuban poet Nancy Morejón

New York, NY – PEN America has announced that leading Russian and American journalist and author Masha Gessen, will deliver the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, followed by a conversation with comedian and political commentator Samantha Bee on the closing night of the PEN World Voices Festival. This year the thirteenth annual Festival, taking place in New York from May 1-7, will address some of the vital issues of the Trump era, with a special focus on the fractious relationship between gender and power. At a moment of historic threats to freedom and truth, Ms. Gessen and Ms. Bee, both activists in their own rights, will speak to Gessen’s experience with Russian censorship and suppression of dissent, and parallels between the current administration and other authoritarian regimes.

Named for playwright Arthur Miller, an ardent advocate for free expression and longtime leader of PEN, the annual lecture is a hallmark of the Festival. In past years, the Freedom to Write Lecture has been delivered by Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The event will take place at The Great Hall at Cooper Union on Sunday, May 7 at 5pm. Tickets for this and all Festival events are available at

Masha Gessen is the author of ten books of nonfiction, most recently The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, coming from Riverhead in October. She is a contributing opinion writer to The New York Times and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, among other publications.

Samantha Bee has quickly established herself as having one of the most unique and sharp comedic voices on television. Bee departed The Daily Show in 2015 and currently holds the title for being the longest-serving regular Daily Show correspondent of all time. In 2016, Bee received global and critical recognition from the success of her very own award-winning weekly late night comedy series, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

In addition to Gessen’s and Bee’s appearances, the PEN World Voices Festival has added many events to the schedule. Highlights include:

  • Comedy Writing in the Age of Trump, with members of Samantha Bee’s writing team, including Mathan Erhardt, Ashley Black, and Patrick Cassels. (Greene Space; May 4)
  • Legacies: Militancy and Sisterhood: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Margo Jefferson, and writers Honor Moore and Alix Kates Shulman (co-editors of the forthcoming Library of America anthology Writing the Women’s Movement) and Anna Holmes (Jezebel founder) discuss the ongoing legacy of Second-wave feminism. (Roulette; Thursday, May 4)
  • A conversation between 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer, The Refugees) and Lambda Award and O. Henry Prize-winner Chinelo Okparanta (Happiness, Like Water, Under the Udala Trees), moderated by New York Times’s senior editor, Parul Sehgal (Center for Fiction; Thursday, May 4)
  • Exposure: Politics, Sex and Power: Japanese sculptor/manga artist Rokudenashiko, Bangladeshi installation and performance artist Ali Asgar, and Iranian singer, songwriter and music scholar Mohsen Namjoo use their art to explore politics, gender and identity, facing persecution at home. Moderated by Alexandra Munroe. (Dixon Place; May 2)
  • Two events with acclaimed Cuban poet, Nancy Morejón, hailed by poet Sapphire as “the most internationally successful and widely translated Cuban woman poet of the post-revolutionary period”: Cuban Dreams, Cuban Histories, in which Morejón explores mythologies and Cubans’ lived experiences with Cuban American novelist Derek Palacio (American Museum of Natural History; May 4); and Nancy Morejón and Wild Noise, in which she reads against the backdrop of the Bronx Museum’s Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje exhibition, a survey of Cuban artists both on the island and abroad grappling with issues of identity, gender, and community. (Bronx Museum; Saturday, May 6)
  • Power of the Arts: From Propaganda to Free Speech: 2016 Forward Prize winner Trinidadian- British poet Vahni Capiledo, renowned theatre director Dominic Dromgoole and others look how Shakespeare has been used throughout the centuries as a tool of propaganda or to channel dissent. In partnership with Index on Censorship, this program is part of Shakespeare Lives, a global program celebrating the continuing resonance of Shakespeare around the world led by the British Council and the GREAT Britain Campaign. (Roulette; May 2)

For a complete schedule of events, visit: Programming and participants subject to change. 

About PEN America

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.

About the PEN World Voices Festival

Founded in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, by Salman Rushdie, Esther Allen, and Michael Roberts with the aim of broadening channels of dialogue between the U.S. and the world, PEN World Voices is the only international literary festival in America, and the only one in the world with a human rights focus. The Festival attracts the best-known writers from across the globe and
has garnered international acclaim as a premier literary event. Since its founding 13 years ago, PEN World Voices has presented more than 1,500 writers and artists from 118 countries speaking 56 languages.

Lerner & Deconinck Associates
Jenny Lerner:
212-486-7299 |
Isabelle Deconinck:
646-623-1709 |

The Village Voice serves as official media sponsor of the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival.

The Festival is made possible in part through the generosity of Kaplen Brothers Fund, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Embrey Family Foundation, Amazon Crossing, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Twitter: @PENworldvoices/#PENFest
Instagram: @pen_america