In response to the current budget proposal to completely defund the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, PEN America asked Members to share their experiences with the NEA or NEH. From editors to historians to teachers to novelists, our Members have benefited from the NEA and NEH in a variety of meaningful ways. We present here a handful of their stories.

Wally Lamb, author, I Know This Much Is True

In my book travels, I often hear from readers that I Know This Much Is True is their favorite novel of mine. This book—and the six that followed—would not exist without the support of the National Endowment for the Arts. Midway through creating that story, I was about to give up writing. Life had become too complicated. I was balancing a full-time high school teaching job with the needs of two elderly and infirm parents and the challenges of having adopted a special-needs child suffering from PTSD, attachment disorder, and other afflictions. (We had two other young sons at the time.) A surprise call from the NEA’s Gigi Bradford, telling me I had been awarded a grant from the Endowment, allowed me to take a 6-month leave of absence from teaching and continue working on my story—a novel that was subsequently translated into 16 different languages and chosen as a selection for Oprah’s Book Club. 

Add the possible demise of the NEA to the list of shameful moves made by the current administration. I mourn for all the novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, dancers, and other creators of art who will now lack the encouragement of this arts-supportive organization. Thank you, NEA, and shame on you, Mr. Trump. Art colors and illuminates life. Stop draining the color out of America.