(AUSTIN, Texas)– With the spread of book banning nationwide, especially targeting books about Black history and culture and by Black authors, the PEN America Austin Chapter and The Library Foundation will host a public conversation titled “Who is Afraid of Black Books?” and readings by two authors of color at 7 p.m., Thursday, June 2 at the Special Events Center at the Austin Central Library (710 W. Cesar Chavez St.). Media coverage is invited.

Moderated by Jennifer M. Wilks and featuring contributors to The 1619 Project, acclaimed author ZZ Packer and award-winning poet Danez Smith, this conversation will reflect on the recent book bans and the power of literature to spur important cultural conversations. The authors will read from their work, and engage in a moderated thirty-minute discussion.

The public is encouraged to register for the event in advance. Black Pearl Books will be on site during the event selling books.

In April of this year, PEN America released its Banned in the USA report detailing the rash of book bans in school districts across the country. Texas alone has initiated 713 bans in 16 districts. The 1619 Project and books related to race have been particularly vilified.

Speakers Bios

Jennifer M. Wilks is an associate professor of English, African and African Diaspora Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin, where she serves as Director of the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.

ZZ Packer’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker since 2000 and has been contributing non-fiction to The New York Times Magazine since 1999. She’s published in Harper’s, GRANTA, Zoetrope, Best American Short Stories, Best Non-Required Reading, 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, The Washington Post Magazine, The American Prospect, The Oxford American, The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, The Believer, Essence, O Magazine, GQ, PORT, and online at Salon, Newsweek, and The New Yorker.

Danez Smith is the author of three collections including Homie and Don’t Call Us Dead. They have won the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and have been a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in Poetry, the National Book Critic Circle Award, and the National Book Award.

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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057