New York, NY, March 20, 2007PEN American Center, the 3400-member association of literary writers, editors, and translators, announced today the election of Francine Prose, the acclaimed novelist, short story writer, and essayist, as its next president. Ms. Prose succeeds the prize-winning biographer Ron Chernow, who has served as the group’s leader for the last year.

Commenting on her election, Prose said, “I’m thrilled and honored to assume the presidency of PEN. The work PEN does to advance literature and promote a world community of writers is perennially important. But our commitment to free expression—to guaranteeing the human rights and saving the lives of writers throughout the world, protecting the freedom of journalists here and abroad, fighting governmental incursions on the privacy of readers, and working in prisons and schools—has never before seemed so important, and so profoundly necessary.”

Francine Prose is the author of the novels A Changed Man, Blue Angel, Hunters and GatherersBigfoot Dreams, Primitive People, and six other novels; two story collections; and a collection of novellas, Guided Tours of Hell. Her other books include Sicilian Odyssey and Gluttony. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Best American Short Stories, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Observer, and numerous other publications. She is a contributing editor at Harper’s, writes regularly on art for The Wall Street Journal, and is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. The winner of Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and a PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize, she was a Director’s Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the University of Arizona, the University of Utah, and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences. She currently teaches at Bard College and in the New School “Writing and Democracy” Program. Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles, part of HarperCollins’ “Eminent Lives Series,” was published this past October. Her most recent book is Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. At PEN, she has, served as a trustee (1999-2004), vice-president (2004-2005), and, in 2003, she also co-founded PEN’s Core Freedoms Campaign.

Outgoing PEN President Ron Chernow hailed the election: “Francine Prose is an outstanding choice for the PEN presidency, not only because she is such a superbly versatile writer, but because she has been one of the most vocal and influential PEN trustees of recent years. Alarmed by the manifold threats to privacy and civil liberties introduced in the wake of 9/11, she spearheaded a new activist bent at PEN that resulted in the creation of the Campaign for Core Freedoms, which has mobilized the membership and vigorously combated those threats.”

Ron Chernow is the acclaimed biographer of Alexander Hamilton, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. His first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award and was voted one of the 20th century’s hundred best nonfiction books by the Modern Library Board. His family saga, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize for best business book and was voted one of the year’s ten best by the American Library Association. His two most recent biographies, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and Alexander Hamilton were both nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and listed among the top ten books of the year by The New York Times Book Review.

PEN Executive director Michael Roberts said of the new President, “Francine Prose has been a prolific and much-honored author of both novels and non-fiction while managing to give important assistance with some of PEN’s most important initiatives for almost a decade. She also brings a particular appreciation for the urgency of nurturing both the audiences and the junior talent on which the future of good writing depends.”

Authors Billy Collins and Jhumpa Lahiri will serve as Vice Presidents along with investment fund manager John Troubh; also serving as officers are authors Benjamin Taylor (Secretary) and A. M. Homes (Treasurer). Among those newly elected as PEN Trustees were: Joan Jakobson, Lois Lowry, Jaime Manrique, Gary Shteyngart, Scott Spencer, and Elissa Schappell. See the full board list.

PEN American Center is the U.S. arm of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 as a direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the outbreak of the First World War. Its mission remains the advancement of literature, the defense of free expression, and the promotion of international literary fellowship. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 141 PEN centers in 99 countries that constitute International PEN. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and the contributions to defending human rights of such past members as W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Eugene O’Neill, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.

PEN American Center’s chief programs include:

• Freedom to Write, which speaks out on behalf of censored or imprisoned writers around the world and in response to threats to the First Amendment in the United States;

• Readers & Writers, which send writers and their books to communities across the country, reaching adults and children who have learned to read but have never read for pleasure;

• Campaign for Core Freedoms, an intensive campaign of public education and advocacy intended to address freedom of expression and human rights concerns connected with the USA Patriot Act and other antiterrorism laws and orders enacted since 9/11/01;

• PEN Forums, which presents public literary programs exploring a range topics on contemporary as well as classic literature, the state of literary culture, and freedom of expression;

• PEN World Voices, the New York Festival of International Literature, an intensive week-long series of public literary programs designed to promote translation and the dissemination of translated works and to combat American cultural insularity while fostering international cultural dialogue;

• PEN Literary Awards, which recognize excellence among American authors, literary translators, editors, and publishers.

Andrew Proctor, (212) 334-1660, ext. 101, aproctor@pen.org