PEN America is a member of PEN International, a non-political, non-governmental, worldwide association of writers founded in 1921 to promote intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere, to emphasize the role of literature in the understanding of world culture, to fight for freedom of expression and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned or even killed for their beliefs. PEN America is the largest of over 100 centers of PEN International, where for over 90 years the organization has worked together with the international PEN community to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature and convey information, ideas, and opinions.
PEN America stands to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide, championing the freedom to write and the transformative power literature has on the world. Their mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. It’s almost absurd to say, but this is more important in 2017 than ever before, where creative expression is in danger. The PEN World Voices Festival, which for the past two years has highlighted geographic regions like Africa and Mexico, will shift its focus this year to gender and power in the United States, specifically in the age of President Trump.
The festival, which runs from May 1st-8th in New York, will feature 150 writers in a series of talks, readings, and workshops related to social justice, sexuality, and politics. The official theme of this year’s festival is “Gender and Power,” and will use literature and the arts to address how gender both enables and impairs full participation in politics and society. Through an array of dialogues, panels, readings and workshops, the Festival will investigate the social constructs that restrict female and LGBTQ empowerment, sexuality and gender fluidity. In response to the recent resurgence of nationalism and neo-isolationism, PEN World Voices seeks to create a platform for writers and intellectuals around the world to discuss and debate how to confront the barriers and backlash that could jeopardize the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, and other populations at risk, as well as connecting them with concerned citizens to examine bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia.
“PEN America launched the World Voices Festival after 9/11 at a moment when the U.S. was becoming cut off from the rest of the globe,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America said in a statement. “Amid visa bans and an America First foreign policy, World Voices is now an important antidote to an America at risk of only talking to itself, fanning baseless fears, and damaging relations with allies and people around the world. This year’s Festival will center on both celebration and mobilization, rallying around PEN America’s mission to defend free expression and enable the breadth of voices vital to an open marketplace of ideas.”
The festival begins with “United Against Hate,” an evening of performance with the musicians Patti Smith, her daughter Jesse Smith, Ani DiFranco, and novelists including Colum McCann, Marlon James and Salman Rushdie (one of the founders of the PEN World Voices Festival), as well as many others. Other highlights include:
- A conversation between the National Book Award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Trevor Noah, of The Daily Show.
- Two events on dystopian fiction that explore gender issues, reproduction, and environment.
- Discussions on media representation of transgender identities, the LGBTQ cultural landscape, and sexuality.
- A panel hosted by The New Yorker on the hardships of being a woman in the male-dominated field of cartooning with cartoonists Roz Chast, Liana Finck, and Emily Flake.
- Panels on gender representation in graphic novels with writers/artists Gengoroh Tagame, Simon Hanselmann, Julia Gfrörer and Jennifer Camper.
This year the Festival is also collaborating with Women of the World (WOW), produced by the Apollo Theater and the South Bank Center of London, for a series of events centered on activism and the achievements of women and girls around the world. The Village Voice will serve as the Festival’s official media sponsor, partnering on initiatives to help broaden the impact of Festival events and reach new audiences throughout New York City.
Tickets for all Festival events are available at: http://www.penworldvoices.org
YouTube Channel: PEN America
Featured image via PEN America