PEN American Center

This is about the PEN Center in New York. For the Center in California, see PEN Center USA
PEN America Center

Free Expression. Literature.

A Global Literary Community[1]
Motto Protecting free expression and celebrating literature[1]
Formation 1922
Type Literary society, human rights organization[1]
Legal status Nonprofit Organization
Purpose Publication, advocacy, literary awards[1]
Headquarters New York, NY, USA
  • New York City, U.S.
Coordinates 40°43′30″N 73°59′50″W / 40.724920°N 73.997163°W / 40.724920; -73.997163
Region served
Eastern Half of USA
Official language
Andrew Solomon[2]
Key people
Board of Trustees[1]
Parent organization
PEN International
Affiliations International Freedom of Expression Exchange

PEN America Center (PEN), founded in 1922 and based in New York City, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The Center has a membership of 3,300 writers, editors, and translators. PEN America Center is the largest of the 144 centers that belong to PEN International, the worldwide association of writers that defends those who are harassed, imprisoned and killed for their views.[1] PEN America Center is one of two PEN centers located in the USA, the other is PEN Center USA in Los Angeles, it covers the USA west of the Mississippi.

Full membership in PEN generally requires the publication of one or more books of a literary character, or one or more play produced in a professional venue. Editors with a career of five years or more are also eligible, as are many publishers, agents, and publicists and other members of the literary publishing community. Recently, PEN created an associate tier of membership, which is open to the general public.[3]

Over the years, PEN America Center's membership has included many of the leading lights in the American literary establishment, including Edward Albee, Paul Auster, James Baldwin, Giannina Braschi, Willa Cather, Don DeLillo, Robert Frost, Tony Kushner, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Susan Sontag, Salman Rushdie and John Steinbeck.

In addition to defending persecuted writers, PEN America Center sponsors public literary programs and forums on current issues, sends prominent authors to inner-city schools to encourage reading and writing, administers literary prizes, promotes international literature that might otherwise go unread in the United States, and offers grants and loans to writers facing financial or Medical Emergencies.

PEN is also a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of nongovernmental organizations that monitors free expression violations worldwide and defends journalists, writers, human rights activists and Internet users who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.[4]

PEN World Voices Festival

Since 2005, PEN America Center has hosted the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York City, which brings renowned writers from around the world together to share ideas, give public readings and talks, and foster debate on literature and freedom of expression. This festival was founded by Salman Rushdie and convenes politically active literary luminaries from around the world such as Paul Auster, Giannina Braschi, Mircea Cărtărescu, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Karl Ove Knausgård, ib Michael, Herta Müller, and Salman Rushdie[5]

Awards Program

PEN America Center has an extensive program of annual awards and fellowships that serve to recognize recent outstanding endeavors in various literary fields and to encourage different forms of literary production.

PEN America: A Journal for Writers and Readers

PEN America is a semi-annual literary journal that publishes fiction, poetry, conversation, criticism, and memoir. It was founded in 2000, and named one of that year's "Ten Best New Magazines" by Library Journal. Work from recent issues has been selected for Best American Essays (of The Best American Series) and the Pushcart Prize. Contributors include Paul Auster, Michael Cunningham, Nikki Giovanni, Marilynne Robinson, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag, John Edgar Wideman, and many others.[6]

PEN Prison Writing Program

Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative and rehabilitative power of writing, by providing hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. The program seeks to provide a place for inmates to express themselves freely with paper and pen and to encourage the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power. The program sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates whose writing shows merit or promise, conducts workshops for former inmates, and seeks to get inmates' work to the public through literary publications and readings.[7][8]

Involvement in theater

PEN America Center along with The American Civil Liberties Union and the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a special performance of "Reckoning With Torture: Memos and Testimonies From the 'War on Terror'" on May 24, 2011 at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. The performance was directed by Doug Liman, and was focused on featuring readings from formerly secret government documents and videos, that shone a light on the scope and human cost of the Post 9/11 torture program.[9]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "About PEN America Center".
  2. "Andrew Solomon Named President of PEN American Center". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  3. "PEN Membership for General Public". Waldorf College. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  4. "Members of IFEX". Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  5. Taylor, Kate (February 23, 2011). "PEN World Voices Festival Announces Lineup". NY Times Blog. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  6. PEN America Journal
  7. Prison Writing Program
  8. "PEN's Prison Writing Program". Little Patuxent Review. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  9. "Theater performance & reading focused on Post 9/11 torture program". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
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