Record-breaking Year in Membership for Leading Literary and Human Rights Organization

NEW YORK—PEN American Center brought together over 300 of New York’s most acclaimed writers, translators, editors, agents, and publishers to celebrate new books published in 2013 and the fruits of free expression at its annual New Members/New Books party last night at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn.

The diversity of PEN’s membership was reflected in the event’s co-hosts: Poet Laureate of Brooklyn Tina Chang, Jezebel founder Anna Holmes, novelists Mitchell Jackson and Dani Shapiro, and author Gary Shteyngart, whose new memoir was published earlier this month. Distinguished and longstanding PEN Members such as Ron Chernow, Elissa Schappell, Roxana Robinson, Lev Grossman, and Elinor Lipman mingled with up-and-coming writers including B.J. Novak, Marie-Helene Bertino, Paul Rome, Patty Chang Anker, Caleb Crain, Mark Binelli, and Dina Nayeri. New PEN Member Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO original series Girls, curated the music for the evening, while Rosie Schaap, author of last year’s memoir Drinking with Men, created literary-themed cocktails courtesy of liquor sponsors Hendrick’s Gin and Zyr Russian Vodka. Brooklyn Brewery donated the beer.

Guests posed for The Photo Booth Party in front of a collage of 250+ cover images from books published by PEN Members in the last year, many of which were on display that night for guests to review. The rate of new members in PEN has nearly tripled since 2011, with an unprecedented 376 new members joining in 2013.

“Your membership directly helps PEN fight censorship and defend free expression throughout the world for those writers and journalists denied the most basic liberty,” PEN’s Membership Director Paul Morris told the crowd. “A voice.”

Co-hosts and new members offered touching and often hilarious testimonials of their experience as PEN members. “I grew up in a totalitarian society where I was not allowed to express myself,” said Shteyngart. “ I’m talking about Hebrew school in Queens!” He continued, “PEN helps writers in all parts of the world, from Vladivostok to Kew Gardens Hills. And that is something that you are helping to support right now. The people who you are helping are forever, forever a part of what you do.”

PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel ended the night with a call to action, encouraging all in attendance to send a postcard or email to Chinese President Xi Jinping demanding the freedom of PEN member and poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest in Beijing since her husband, jailed writer and Independent Chinese PEN Center President Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.


PEN American Center is a community of 3,500 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. To learn more, visit

Paul W. Morris, 212-334-1660, ext. 108, paul[at]
Sarah Edkins, 212-334-1660, ext. 116, sedkins[at]