PEN America Postpones Prestigious World Voices Festival Amid Rising Tensions

PEN America has announced the cancellation of its esteemed 2024 World Voices Festival, which was set to occur from May 8-11 in New York and extend until May 16 in Los Angeles. Publishers Weekly is reporting that the organization cited a troubling increase in the suppression of free speech within cultural forums and educational institutions as a key factor behind their decision.

In an official statement, PEN America expressed regret, emphasizing that the festival’s core goal has always been to champion writers and encourage open dialogue among diverse viewpoints. “The current environment, marked by intense scrutiny and pressures on our participants, particularly concerning the conflict in Gaza, has compelled us to take this step,” the statement detailed. Many writers reportedly faced significant backlash for their planned involvement, prompting some to withdraw as an act of protest against PEN America’s stance on the Gaza situation.

Further complicating matters, numerous participants shared their experiences of being targeted on social media and pressured to sever ties with the organization, with some expressing fear over the repercussions of voicing their opinions. “This climate of fear and censorship runs counter to everything PEN America stands for,” the organization noted.

Amid these challenges, PEN America remains resolute in its commitment to the literary community. Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, the Chief Literary Programming Officer, announced plans for a Town Hall to address these pressing issues and explore solutions within the literary sphere.

As for the future, including the organization’s major fundraising event slated for May 16, PEN America’s CEO Suzanne Nossel stated to the New York Times, “We’re taking it day by day.” This cautious approach reflects the uncertain atmosphere currently enveloping the literary and cultural communities.

PEN America’s decision underscores a pivotal moment for free expression and the importance of supporting writers and artists in a climate that increasingly challenges these fundamental rights.

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Tina Pavlik

Owner of TRS since 2003

An aficionado of romance novels for many years, Tina has owned The Romance Studio since 2003 and for 20 years, has enjoyed highlighting the best books in the genre. She enjoys all aspects of marketing including writing content, book trailer design, and finding captivating new books for voracious readers. She has also written over 20 romance titles under various pen names. In another life, she writes horror and works as an extras casting assistant for TV shows and films in the North Carolina and South Carolina regions.