The PEN Pod
By PEN America
As an organization that's all about the literary community, PEN America knows that the ongoing health crisis is hitting our Members and friends particularly hard. The PEN Pod is meant to provide regular updates and conversations about literature and free expression, and provide an outlet for literary celebration as in-person events remain few and far between.
Join the conversation online at pen.org and on our social channels @PENAmerica. Thanks for tuning in.
Join the conversation online at pen.org and on our social channels @PENAmerica. Thanks for tuning in.
Tough Questions About 2021; Plus, That's a Wrap
On this very final episode of The PEN Pod, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel talks about free speech in 2021, from the Capitol Hill insurrection to calls to ban books and entire topics from America's classrooms. Then we reflect on The PEN Pod and PEN America's impact.
December 24, 2021
Artistic Freedom in Myanmar; Plus, Tough Questions on Disinformation, Trump Texts, and Free Speech Battles Ahead
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we speak to two experts on the situation for free expression in Myanmar nearly one year since the coup. Then, Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, joins for our latest installment of TOUGH QUESTIONS. This week, we discuss disinformation consumers, texts to Trump amid the insurrection, and what lies ahead for free speech in 2022.
December 17, 2021
The Perils of Self-Censorship; Plus, Tough Questions on Fighting Book Bans and What Democracy Really Means
On this week's episode of The PEN Pod, we bring you a conversation about self-censorship among PEN America's own Ayad Akhtar, Suzanne Nossel, and Jennifer Finney Boylan, alongside Wajahat Ali, John McWhorter, and Carmen Maria Machado. Then, Suzanne wades through the tough questions of free speech from the past week, including what it means to be a democracy in 2021 and how best to fight back against book bans,
December 10, 2021
Tough Questions: Peng Shuai, 'Simpsons' and Censorship, and Critical Race Theory Taboos
On this edition of The PEN Pod, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel answers tough questions about a silenced Chinese tennis star; how Disney self-censored in the face of cross-border censorship; and how the utterance of two words -- critical and race -- can draw a crackdown on free speech.
December 03, 2021
The Perishing with Natashia Deón; Plus, Tough Questions on Biden and China, Myanmar, and a Free Speech University
On this episode of The PEN Pod, author, attorney, and activist Natashia Deón on her new book THE PERISHING, as well as themes of redemption and immortality in her work and writing. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions about President Biden's approach to China's government; the freedom of a U.S. journalist detained in Myanmar; and the prospects of establishing a free speech university.
November 19, 2021
Book Banning and Educational Gag Orders; Plus, Anthony Doerr and Cloud Cuckoo Land
On today's episode of The PEN Pod, award-winning author Anthony Doerr talks to PEN America's Jane Marchant about his latest work CLOUD CUCKOO LAND. George M. Johnson reflects on efforts to ban the author's book ALL BOYS AREN'T BLUE, as well as the broader effort to impose educational gag orders in classrooms. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel on legislative threats to the freedom to learn, plus efforts to get at the truth about Jan. 6.
November 12, 2021
Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed with Saraciea J. Fennell; Plus, Tough Questions on Facial Recognition, NSO Group, and Local News
On this edition of The PEN Pod, PEN America's Jared Jackson interviews The Bronx Is Reading founder Saraciea J. Fennell on her debut anthology Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel tackles tough questions about facial recognition, tech surveillance, and local news.
November 05, 2021
Dreaming of You with Melissa Lozada-Oliva
On this week's episode of The PEN Pod, our own Jared Jackson speaks to poet and podcaster Melissa Lozada-Oliva about her work in verse, Dreaming of You.
October 29, 2021
When High School Students Defeat a Book Ban
On this special edition of The PEN Pod, we hear the voices of three students and a teacher who helped overturn a pernicious book ban in their home town of York, Pennsylvania.
October 22, 2021
Subway Book Review with Uli Beutter Cohen; Plus, Tough Questions on Dave Chapelle, Protecting Journalists, and Facebook Revelations
On this episode of The PEN Pod Jared Jackson, PEN America’s manager of literary programs, speaks with Uli Beutter Cohen, creator of Subway Book Review, about her book Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground, which collects over 170 interviews from the acclaimed social media movement that highlights books and the people who cherish them. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel answers our latest round of tough questions about free speech from the past week.
October 15, 2021
The Legacy of Hurricane Maria; Plus, Tough Questions on Campus Speakers, Facebook Whistleblowers, and the Freedom to Write
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we explore the legacy of Hurricane Maria, which is subject of a new book called Mi María: Surviving the Storm. We talk to one of the project's editors as well as one of its narrators. Then, Tough Questions with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. This week, we talk about our annual gala celebration, a Facebook whistleblower, and the cancellation of a speaker at MIT.
October 08, 2021
Dan O'Brien on Writing, Trauma, and Optimism; Plus, Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
On this week's episode of The PEN Pod, playwright and poet Dan O'Brien is out with a new essay collection and a new collection of poetry, that together weave in accounts of resilience and trauma. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel answers the toughest questions about the past week in free speech.
September 24, 2021
A BBC Reporter Expelled from Russia: Then, Tough Questions on Book Bans, a Texas Abortion Law, and Supporting Exiles Worldwide
On this week's episode of The PEN Pod, BBC journalist Sarah Rainsford joins to discuss her abrupt expulsion from Russia, what it means for free expression, and the limits of press freedom in today's Russia. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel joins for our latest installment of TOUGH QUESTIONS. We dive into Texas' restrictive new abortion law, supporting exiles worldwide, and a Texas book ban becomes ever more grave.
September 17, 2021
The Promise of a Robust Public Defense; Plus, Dallas' Literary Community
This week on The PEN Pod, we catch up with attorney and author Jonathan Rapping, author of GIDEON'S PROMISE and leader of an organization charged with harnessing the voices of public defenders to make change. Then, co-leader of PEN America Dallas/Fort Worth Will Evans comes on to talk about the slow re-emergence of in-person literary events in Texas and nationwide.
September 10, 2021
Renewing New Orleans Through Literature with Maurice Carlos Ruffin; Plus, the War on Terror with Spencer Ackerman
On this week's extended edition of The PEN Pod, we get the latest on Hurricane Ida and its impact on the New Orleans literary community from author Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Then, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Spencer Ackerman discusses his new book, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, and get his insights on the conclusion of the war in Afghanistan.
September 03, 2021
Leaving Behind a Deadly Digital Trail in Afghanistan
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we have an in-depth interview with PEN America's own Matt Bailey, who walks us through the perils facing Afghans who've been sharing details of their lives on social media. Many now face serious threats having spent years posting photos and other details of their lives online. Bailey explores the shortcomings of the social media platforms and what they can do to better protect Afghans and all those facing threats globally.
August 27, 2021
Navigating the Debacle in Afghanistan: George Packer and Ayad Akhtar, Plus the Future for Afghan Women
On this special edition of The PEN Pod, we focus on the fall of the US-backed government in Afghanistan. First, we have a conversation between PEN America president Ayad Akhtar and journalist and author George Packer. They discuss the fate of Afghanistan's writers and translators, reflect on the decline of American power globally, and discuss more broadly the future of defending free expression. Then, we preview a PEN.org conversation with Afghan American author Nadia Hashimi—and outline how you can take action to defend Afghanistan's writers, artists, and free speech defenders.
August 20, 2021
Attacking Racism Through National Solidarity; Plus, Tough Questions on Belarus, Misinformation, and a Texas Book Ban
Former Navy commander and scholar Theodore Johnson's new book When the Stars Begin to Fall lays out the case for how a new form of national solidarity modeled on Black solidarity could help us inch ever-closer to racial justice. Then, PEN America's own Suzanne Nossel takes on the toughest questions this week in free speech, tackling COVID misinformation, a Texas book ban, and the continued attack on free expression in Belarus.
August 13, 2021
Queering an Epic Tale; Plus, Tough Questions on the Olympics, Facebook Shutting Down Research, and Protest Laws
On this week's episode, we bring you a second conversation with one of the contributors to DREAMing Out Loud, our annual anthology of writings from migrant writers who took part in our writing workshop series. Then, Suzanne Nossel joins to wade through the tough questions around the Olympics and protesting on the podium, new laws that threaten demonstrators, and Facebook taking steps to shut down independent research.
August 06, 2021
DREAMing Out Loud; Plus, Tough Questions on the Insurrection Hearings, COVID Vaccines, and Russia's Vendetta Against the Press
This week's PEN Pod focuses on DREAMing Out Loud, the anthology of written works from young migrant writers here in New York City. We talk to one of this year's stellar contributors. Then, we turn to Suzanne Nossel to answer all your tough questions about free speech this week, including the insurrection hearings, Republicans flip flopping on vaccine disinformation, and Russia's efforts to silence independent media.
July 30, 2021
Belarus Opposition Leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; the Pegasus Spyware Scandal; Tough Question on the Olympics and Vaccine Disinformation
On this episode of The PEN Pod, we're joined by Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya just as authorities in that country have given notice that they intend to dissolve our sister organization PEN Belarus. PEN America's own Matt Bailey dissects the Pegasus spyware revelations. And then our Summer Lopez covers the threats spyware poses to free expression, as well as tough questions on Olympic protests and vaccine disinformation.
July 23, 2021
Bring Danny Home; Plus, Iran Attempts to Arrest an American Writer
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to writer and cartoonist Amy Kurzweil, who is leading a campaign to free her cousin Danny Fenster, a journalist detained in Myanmar earlier this spring. She discusses his urgent plight and what others can do to demand his freedom. Then, Summer Lopez of PEN America explores the tough questions about free expression this week. We outline how Iran attempted to kidnap an American journalist critical of the regime; and she explores Belarus' crackdown on NGOs and media outlets this week.
July 16, 2021
Fighting Back Against Hate with Brad Hoylman; Plus Tough Questions about Censorship, Academic Freedom, and Hate Speech
On this week's edition of The PEN Pod, New York state Senator Brad Hoylman joins us to discuss his bill that would help track hate crimes in New York. Then, Suzanne Nossel discusses how policymakers are waking up to the censorship threat emanating from the Chinese government; how a tenure decision for Nikole Hannah-Jones is a win for academic freedom; and how hate speech and hate crimes are interrelated. We'll be on break next week but will return with new episodes July 16.
July 02, 2021
Queer Poem a Day; Plus, Tough Questions on Belarus, a Cussing Cheerleader, and Hong Kong
On this episode of The PEN Pod, we talk to podcast hosts Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno who produce Queer Poem a Day, a podcast series of contemporary LGBTQ+ poetry. Then, Suzanne Nossel of PEN America talks about media crackdowns in Belarus and Hong Kong, plus a cheerleader has her First Amendment rights upheld by the Supreme Court.
June 25, 2021
The M Word: Centering Muslim American Voices
On this special edition of The PEN Pod, we introduce a weeklong town hall series called The M Word, centering American Muslim voices through live, in-person, and virtual conversations that bring together writers, artists, and thought leaders across a range of genres, expertise, and platforms. Our Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf speaks with our M Word panel of advisors: oral historian Zaheer Ali, artistic director of Performing Arts Mosaic Adam Gagan, organizer Ayah Eldosougi, and director of MPAC’s Hollywood Bureau Sue Obeidi.
June 22, 2021
Tough Questions on Iran, Digital Sovereignty, and Divisive Topics; Plus, Crimea Seven Years After the Occupation
Today on The PEN Pod, we discuss the state of free expression in Iran, digital sovereignty and the splintering of a free internet, and the teaching of divisive topics as part of our weekly Tough Questions segment. Then, Ukraine's First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzheppar on the state of play on the Crimean peninsula seven years after the Russian occupation.
June 18, 2021
Zakiya Dalila Harris and The Other Black Girl; Plus, Tough Questions on COVID, Reporters' Emails, and Critical Race Theory
On this week's edition, we're back with breakout debut novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris discussing her novel THE OTHER BLACK GIRL with PEN America's Jared Jackson. Then, a new installment of tough questions, where we pore through hard questions about free speech and free expression with our CEO Suzanne Nossel. This week, we discuss CNN reporters and the battle over emails, conspiracy theories over the origins of COVID, and critical race theory and laws attempting to ban it.
June 11, 2021
The Russian Key; Plus, Tough Questions on Belarus, Content Takedowns, and Media Personnel Decisions
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we discuss with human rights leader Jeri Laber her new work of fiction, The Russian Key, a Cold War tale of intrigue with lessons for today's global crises. And Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, joins to wade through the week's tough questions about Belarus, internet content takedowns, and CNN and AP's latest personnel moves.
May 28, 2021
Festival Day Five: Brian Broome and Unapologetic Memoir
On this final day of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, our Jared Jackson sits down with Brian Broome to discuss his debut memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods. Plus, we take a look back at the 2021 festival. Learn more at pen.org/festival.
May 22, 2021
Festival Day Four: Kawai Strong Washburn and Magical Storytelling
As we enter the penultimate day of the PEN World Voices Festival, we hear from PEN/Hemingway Award winner Kawai Strong Washburn about myth-making, magic, and storytelling. Plus we look at what the Festival has in store for its final days. Tickets on sale at pen.org/festival.
May 21, 2021
Festival Day Three: Torrey Peters and Liberation Literature
On today's special edition of The PEN Pod, we bring you a conversation with author of Detransition, Baby Torrey Peters—featured in this week's PEN World Voices Festival—on family dynamics through the lens of the lived transgender experience. Plus, we preview the next day of the Festival.
May 20, 2021
Festival Day Two: Allison Markin Powell and Gabriella Page-Fort, and Bringing Translated Literature to Vast Audiences
On this special edition of The PEN Pod, our Nancy Vitale talks to Allison Markin Powell and Gabriella Page-Fort about bringing translated literature to a wide audience. And we preview the day ahead of the PEN World Voices Festival. Tickets on sale at pen.org/festival.
May 19, 2021
Festival Day One: Masha Gessen, Ayad Akhtar, and the PEN World Voices Festival
As we dive into the first day of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival, we talk to virtual co-hosts Ayad Akhtar and Masha Gessen, who share their thoughts on a global virtual festival as we still contend with global crises. Then, we preview the week ahead for the festival—tickets are on sale at pen.org/festival.
May 18, 2021
Special: Previewing the PEN World Voices Festival with Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf
On this special edition of The PEN Pod, we look ahead to this week's PEN World Voices Festival of International literature, a global convening of writers and readers that will gather to celebrate the written word. Here to walk us through what's up this week, PEN America's own Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf. Tickets are on sale at pen.org/festival.
May 17, 2021
Love Letters Across Los Angeles; Plus, Tough Questions on Protest Rights, Iran, and Local News
On this week's edition of The PEN Pod, Leila Hamidi, Jerry Quickly, and Yesika Salgado discuss "Love Letters in Light," a scrolling display of short love letters across the front of Los Angeles libraries. Then, PEN America's CEO Suzanne Nossel talks about the crackdown on protest rights, human rights in Iran, and the ongoing local news crisis.
May 14, 2021
Tough Questions on Facebook and Free Speech; Plus, an English Professor Fired for Speaking Out
What does the Oversight Board's decision say about free speech on Facebook? How is adherence to disinformation becoming a litmus test in the Republican Party? Our CEO Suzanne Nossel weighs in on the Tough Questions of the week. Then, Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner blew the whistle on misconduct at his university—and was promptly fired. What his case says about academic freedom and free speech on campus.
May 07, 2021
Tough Questions on the Tough Calls in Publishing; Plus, Teens for Press Freedom
PEN America's CEO Suzanne Nossel talks about the pressures facing publishing, especially when it comes to a Philip Roth biography and a Mike Pence book deal. Then, a new generation takes up the mantle of protecting a fair, independent, and free press.
April 30, 2021
The Freedom to Write; Plus, Tough Questions on Imprisoned Writers, Mike Pence, and the George Floyd Verdict
On this week's episode, we explore the latest Freedom to Write Index from PEN America, outlining the number of writers imprisoned around the world; we walk through the findings with Veronica Tien and Karin Deutsch Karlekar. Then, PEN America's Suzanne Nossel weighs in on impunity for imprisoning writers, Mike Pence's book deal, and the impact of the George Floyd verdict.
April 23, 2021
Futureproof with Kevin Roose; Plus, Tough Questions on AI, Turkey, and Protest Rights
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to New York Times journalist Kevin Roose about his new book FUTUREPROOF. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions about artificial intelligence, protest rights, and the status of free expression in Turkey.
April 16, 2021
Libertie with Kaitlyn Greenidge; Then, Tough Questions on Beijing, Corporate Free Speech, and Acts of Courage
On this edition of The PEN Pod, our Jared Jackson talks to Kaitlyn Greenidge about her second novel, LIBERTIE. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel on the limits of corporate speech, a potential Olympic boycott, and a stunning act of courage in Minneapolis.
April 09, 2021
No Excuse for Online Abuse; Then, Tough Questions on Myanmar, Anti-Trans Legislation, and Fighting Hatred Online
This week on The PEN Pod, a special edition focusing on the scourge of online abuse. PEN America is out with a new report on the impacts of online hate—and how platforms like Facebook and Twitter can do more to help blunt its worst effects. Then, on our weekly Tough Questions segment, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel explores why the platforms haven't worked harder to stop online hatred; the ongoing crisis in Myanmar; and anti-trans and anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation moving through state legislatures.
April 02, 2021
Your Voice Is Your Superpower; Then, Tough Questions on Social Media, Police and Protests, and Saudi Accountability
On this week's edition, we get to the bottom of Thursday's big tech CEO hearing on Capitol Hill, discuss the police's mishandling of last summer's demonstrations, and examine a death threat issued by a top Saudi diplomat. Then, PEN America's Jonathan Friedman speaks with children's book author and lawyer Jessica Bohrer whose new book, YOUR VOICE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER, is designed to get kids excited about free speech.
March 26, 2021
A Texas Professor Puts It All on the Line; Plus, Tough Questions on Saudi Arabia, Protest Rights, and Vaccine Hesitancy
For this week's episode, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel recounts the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, the global crackdown on protest, and vaccine hesitancy among Republicans. Then, PEN America's Jonathan Friedman speaks to academic Lora Burnett, effectively fired from her job for speaking out.
March 19, 2021
How Beautiful We Were with Imbolo Mbue; Plus, Tough Questions on Big Tech, Antitrust, and the Supreme Court
On this edition of The PEN Pod, our Jared Jackson interviews author Imbolo Mbue, who's new novel HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE reckons with big corporations and the fight for a cleaner world. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel on potential antitrust moves against the big tech companies, reforming liability laws, and the Supreme Court's decision about a student handing out religious literature on campus.
March 12, 2021
Facebook Lifts Its Political Ad Ban, Dr. Seuss, and Bloodshed in Myanmar; Plus, Author Sanderia Faye on Literary Activism
On this edition for March 5, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions on Facebook lifting its political ad ban, an inflated controversy around Dr. Seuss, and the ongoing crackdown against free expression in Myanmar. Then, author and PEN America Dallas chapter leader Sanderia Faye talks about a terrifying police encounter that inspired her to put pen to paper, and how her city is becoming a center of literary activism.
March 05, 2021
Economy Hall and Black History with Fatima Shaik; Plus, Tough Questions on the Big Lie, Cancel Culture, and Alexei Navalny
On this week's edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to author Fatima Shaik about her latest book Economy Hall, which tells the intricate tale of a free Black community that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions on the continuation of the "big lie," so-called cancel culture in the media, and the case of Alexei Navalny.
February 26, 2021
PEN America Settles Its Landmark Trump Lawsuit; Facebook and Cancel Culture; Plus Abraham Riseman's Take on the Life of Stan Lee
On this celebratory edition of The PEN Pod, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel walks us through the organization's legal victory in its settlement with the U.S. government over former President Trump's attacks on the press; she also covers Facebook's decision to disallow the posting of news stories in Australia, and she delves into debates on cancel culture. Then, journalist and critic Abraham Riesman on his new book TRUE BELIEVER: THE RISE AND FALL OF STAN LEE.
February 19, 2021
PEN America Literary Award Finalists; Plus, Tough Questions about a New York Times Reporter, the Impeachment, and a Saudi Activist Released
On this edition of The PEN Pod, PEN America's Jane Marchant joins award-winning author Sandra Cisneros to talk about the release of our Literary Award Finalists, announced this week. Then in our weekly Tough Questions segment, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel discusses the resignation of a New York Times reporter, the story of the impeachment, and the release of Saudi women's rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul.
February 12, 2021
Aftershocks with Nadia Owusu; and Tough Questions on Russia, Myanmar, and Impeachment
Memoirist Nadia Owusu joins The PEN Pod this week to talk her new memoir AFTERSHOCKS, about her life on the fault lines after a global childhood and her own battles with mental illness. Then we go global with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, who talks about the demonstrations in Russia, the blow to democracy in Myanmar, and what to watch in next week's impeachment hearings.
February 05, 2021
Two Debut Queer Brazilian YA Novelists; Plus, Suzanne Nossel on Muzzling, Facebook, and a Free Press
On this week's edition of The PEN Pod, we hear from a pair of debut Brazilian YA authors Lucas Rocha, author of WHERE WE GO FROM HERE and Vitor Martins, author of HERE THE WHOLE TIME, both exploring the experience of young queer people in Brazil. Then, PEN America CEO examines allegations that Sen. Josh Hawley is being silenced, plus the new Facebook oversight body's critical moment.
January 29, 2021
Defending Free Expression in the Biden Era; Plus, Koa Beck on White Feminism
On this week's PEN Pod, Suzanne Nossel explores how free expression defense will change under a Biden administration and where writers and readers will have to keep up the fight. Then, author and journalist Koa Beck speaks to Gina Chung about her new book, White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind.
January 22, 2021
George Saunders on the Craft of Short Fiction; Plus, Suzanne Nossel on the Impeachment and Incitement
On this episode of The PEN Pod, bestselling author George Saunders on his new book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, the art of short fiction, and what we can glean from Russian literature in our current moment. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions on the impeachment, incitement, and social media platforms taking a harder line on disinformation.
January 15, 2021
Tough Questions about Wednesday's Insurrection on Capitol Hill with Suzanne Nossel
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we unpack Wednesday's horrific attack on the Capitol by Trump-led supporters with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. In our weekly "Tough Questions" segment, we review the free speech implications, how the social media platforms responded, the cycles of disinformation fueling the attack, and what to do next.
January 08, 2021
Tough Questions About Truth, TikTok, and Tehran with Suzanne Nossel
On this last installment of Tough Questions for 2020, Suzanne Nossel reflects on how disinformation about the election may hobble the efforts of the next administration; she explores the outrage over Perez Hilton on TikTok and whether banning him has free speech consequences; and she talks about Iran's brutal execution of a journalist and what it suggests for the extra-territorial reach of governments that seek to quash free expression.
December 18, 2020
Sandy Mui and COVID-19's Toll on Journalism
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we explore the impact COVID-19 has had on journalists and journalism, particularly when it comes to local news. In a new project out today, PEN America's own Sandy Mui explores the toll of the pandemic on local reporting and what steps can be taken to shore up an already-battered industry.
December 15, 2020
Barack Obama and the Freedom to Write; Plus, Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
We kick off this gala week episode with our weekly TOUGH QUESTIONS segment, where PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel unpacks the tricky free speech questions that came up over the past week; on this episode, we talk about our gala honorees, the impact human rights organizations can have on governments, and how anti-trust actions against Facebook might impact free expression on the platform. Then, in case you missed it, our exclusive author-to-author conversation with Barack Obama. He received our Voice of Influence Award on Tuesday and sat down for a wide-ranging interview with former PEN America president Ron Chernow touching on issues of propaganda, race, conspiracies, and hopes for the future.
December 11, 2020
Black Futures with Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew; Plus, Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
On this Friday edition of The PEN Pod, we discuss the vanguard of Black art and creativity with Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew, out this month with their new collection BLACK FUTURES. Then, Suzanne Nossel answers some of our tough questions about free speech, the pandemic, and more in our weekly segment.
December 04, 2020
Micheline Aharonian Marcom and The New American; Plus, Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
Micheline Aharonian Marcom discusses her latest novel, The New American, telling the story of a young immigrant forced to leave the home he knows. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions on Trump, hate speech, and this weekend's G20 summit.
November 20, 2020
Nova Ren Suma, Emily X.R. Pan, and Foreshadow
Young adult bestselling writers Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan join this edition of The PEN Pod to discuss their new YA anthology Foreshadow, as well as the broader landscape of the ever-more-popular YA genre.
November 17, 2020
Tough Questions About a Petulant President; Plus, Ruby Hamad and White Tears/Brown Scars
As the president continues his campaign of disinformation, our CEO Suzanne Nossel discusses how he's damaging our information infrastructure, but also the heartening steps journalists have taken to explain what's happening. Then, we talk to writer Ruby Hamad about her new book White Tears/Brown Scars on how white feminism has left our women of color.
November 13, 2020
Julia Rose Kraut and Threat of Dissent
The United States has long heralded itself as a place where dissenters are welcome. But the country has a long history of ideological exclusion that stretches to present day. We discuss this with historian Julia Rose Kraut who dissects this trend in her new book Threat of Dissent: A History of Ideological Exclusion and Deportation in the United States, and examines how PEN America played a role in fighting against such exclusion.
November 10, 2020
Tough Questions About Election Week; Plus, Rhonda Mitchell and Writing the Now
It's been a heckuva an election week. We turn to free speech expert and PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel to discuss the tough questions this campaign has presented over the past few months; how to fix our broken information infrastructure; and what we can do to address mis- and disinformation in the weeks and months ahead. Then, writer Rhonda Mitchell on her method of writing the now, capturing the immediacy of the moment in writing.
November 06, 2020
Special: Election Day with PEN America featuring Nora Benavidez, Natalie Diaz, and Alice Randall
On this special edition for Election Day 2020, we have a conversation with PEN America expert Nora Benavidez on what to expect in the coming hours and days, how to prepare for disinformation, and how voting is an act of free expression. Then poet Natalie Diaz shares an essay on voting and togetherness as part of our We Will Emerge Project. And Alice Randall talks about her latest book Black Bottom Saints.
November 03, 2020
Tough Questions on What to Expect in the Coming Days; Plus, Kevin Young on Poetry, Museums, and Our Shared History
On this Friday edition of The PEN Pod, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel discusses what to expect as we head into the final stretch of the campaign season; our decision to honor the young woman who documented George Floyd's murder, Darnella Frazier; and how a brazen killing in France reflects our perilous moment. Then, Kevin Young discusses his plans for documenting our current history as the incoming director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and he talks about his new book of African American poetry.
October 30, 2020
We Will Emerge: Laila Lalami
In this special edition of The PEN Pod, we share one in a series of essays from writers across the country sharing their hopes and anxieties in advance of Election Day. Here, novelist Laila Lalami with her piece, "Why Vote?"
October 29, 2020
We Will Emerge: Jean Guerrero
In this special edition of The PEN Pod, we share one in a series of essays from writers across the country sharing their hopes and anxieties in advance of Election Day. Here, author and journalist Jean Guerrero with her piece, "Your Mestizaje Is a Superpower."
October 28, 2020
Tami Charles and All Because You Matter
On this edition of The PEN Pod, our Gina Chung speaks with bestselling children's and young adult writer Tami Charles about her new book, All Because You Matter, providing a starting point for parents to discuss the racial climate in America today.
October 27, 2020
Tough Questions on the Election, Disinformation, and Social Media; Plus, Yun Ko-eun and The Disaster Tourist
On this edition for Friday, October 23, we talk tough questions with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, focusing on the days of disinformation ahead and how the social media platforms are reacting, as well as her take on the global protest movements that seem to be gathering steam. Then, novelist Yun Ko-eun on her latest novel The Disaster Tourist.
October 23, 2020
David Heska Wanbli Weiden and Winter Counts; Plus, Matt Bailey on Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Post
On this Tuesday edition of The PEN Pod, we bring you an interview with debut novelist David Heska Wanbli Weiden, whose new book Winter Counts is a thriller that also explores the tension between justice systems inside and outside Indian Country. Then, PEN America's own Matt Bailey discusses the latest on the social platforms throttling back an unsubstantiated New York Post story.
October 20, 2020
Michi Trota and Storytelling; Plus, Suzanne Nossel on Facebook, the New York Post, and China's Higher Ed Influence
On this episode, PEN America's Gina Chung talks storytelling, representation, and elevating new voices with writer and editor Michi Trota. Then, CEO Suzanne Nossel explores the free speech controversies of the week, including Facebook's crackdown on Holocaust denial, a New York Post story gone awry, and China's influence on academic freedom.
October 16, 2020
Behind the Decision Desk: A Conversation with AP, CNN, and Fox News
On this special edition, we bring you a conversation among the top decision desk editors from AP, CNN, and Fox News. Ray Suarez moderates our #WhatToExpect2020 roundtable with Sally Buzbee, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor, The Associated Press; David Scott, Deputy Managing Editor, The Associated Press; Arnon Mishkin, Decision Desk Director, Fox News; Dana Blanton, Head of Public Opinion Research, Fox News; Sam Feist, Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Vice President, CNN; and Jennifer Agiesta, Politics Polling Director, CNN
October 15, 2020
Lisa Jewell and Invisible Girl
Author Lisa Jewell joins The PEN Pod today to discuss her latest thriller Invisible Girl, out in the U.S. today. The novel explores the disappearance of a young woman and the dark corners of incel culture. Our Gina Chung has that conversation.
October 13, 2020
Fredrik Backman and Anxious People; Plus, Suzanne Nossel on Trump's Diagnosis, the Debates, and Campus Speech
On this episode, our Gina Chung talks to award-winning bestseller Fredrik Backman about his latest book Anxious People and how he blends mystery and comedy. Plus, our Suzanne Nossel fields tough questions about the president's refusal to debate, reticence to talk about his health, and an executive order that's sent government agencies and campuses scrambling.
October 09, 2020
Bill Konigsberg and The Bridge
On this edition of The PEN Pod, our Gina Chung in conversation with young adult author Bill Konigsberg. He reflects on his latest novel, what it means to openly reckon with mental illness, and how this book served as a kind of second coming out for him.
October 06, 2020
Eddie Cole and The Campus Color Line; Plus, Tough Questions About the Debate and #WhatToExpect2020
On this Friday episode, our Jonathan Friedman interviews scholar Eddie Cole about his new book exploring the role college presidents have played in shaping and derailing racial equity in America. Then, our CEO Suzanne Nossel on this week's wild debate, disinformation about voting, and our #WhatToExpect2020 campaign. Tune in!
October 02, 2020
K-Ming Chang and Bestiary
Writer and recently named "Five Under 35" author K-Ming Chang talks about her debut novel BESTIARY with PEN America's Gina Chung. They dive into the book's multi-generational tale of Taiwanese American women, and how myth making and family shape our lives. Plus, a quick listen of a new video from PEN America as part of #WhatToExpect2020.
September 29, 2020
Belarus Breakdown with Hanna Komar; Plus, Tough Questions About Trump, Journalists, and the Oscars
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we get a sense of the situation on the ground in Minsk with our PEN Belarus colleague Hanna Komar, arrested earlier this month for participating in anti-government demonstrations. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel joins for tough questions about Trump and the press, professors behaving badly, and the Oscars.
September 25, 2020
Tina Vasquez and Movement Journalism
Today's episode of The PEN Pod explores movement journalism, which seeks to center the people, places, and ideas often left out of mainstream coverage. Journalist Tina Vasquez explores the pressures of journalism right now with PEN America's Gina Chung.
September 22, 2020
Emily Ramshaw and THE 19TH; Plus Tough Questions About Disinformation, Campus Speech, and John Bolton
On this Friday edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to Emily Ramshaw at the new reporting outlet The 19th, reporting on gender and policy at a time when that kind of reporting couldn't be more crucial. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel answers some Tough Questions about disinformation, the criminal inquiry into John Bolton's book, and campus speech under siege.
September 18, 2020
Homeland Elegies and Ayad Akhtar; Plus Resistance in Belarus
It's publication day for Pulitzer winner and incoming PEN America president Ayad Akhtar. He talks about his new book, Homeland Elegies, which launches tonight at a special virtual PEN Out Loud conversation with Ben Rhodes. He discusses the blurred lines between fact and fiction, American decay, and the challenges he sees on the horizon. Then, we check in with PEN America's own Polina Sadovskaya about the situation in Belarus, including the condition of a group of our colleagues from PEN Belarus
September 15, 2020
Jean Guerrero and Hatemonger; Plus Suzanne Nossel Fields Tough Questions
Jean Guerrero is author of the new book Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda. She joins us to talk about how Miller's rise has coincided with the rise of hatred in America and the perils she faces as a reporter. Then, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel joins to talk about the controversy surrounding Mulan, hate speech online, and how to stop your friends and family from becoming disinformation spreaders.
September 11, 2020
Maaza Mengiste and The Shadow King
We're back for an all-new season and an interview with Maaza Mengiste, whose book The Shadow King is now out in paperback — and has been longlisted for the Booker Prize. We talk about the text, grappling with writing amid and pandemic, and more. Plus we preview some of the great conversation up ahead on the second season of The PEN Pod. Thanks again for listening.
September 08, 2020
Encore: This Moment Will Change Literally Everything with Franklin Leonard
On this encore episode, we talk to film executive and PEN America board member Franklin Leonard on the coronavirus crisis' impact on screenwriters and the dynamic in Hollywood.
September 04, 2020
BONUS: Faith and Science, A Conversation with Yaa Gyasi
Author Yaa Gyasi's new book TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM publishes today, and tonight she joins PEN America for PEN OUT LOUD, our hallmark conversation series, for a talk with acclaimed writer Roxane Gay.
September 01, 2020
Encore: Mental Health and the Outbreak With Andrew Solomon
As the national debate over balancing the risks of social isolation heats up, author and clinical psychologist Andrew Solomon discusses the consequences for mental health.
August 28, 2020
Encore: The Magic of Writing with Bernardine Evaristo
On this edition, we talk to British author Bernardine Evaristo about her latest novel and how she was able to assemble its incredible assortment of characters.
August 25, 2020
Encore: The Spiritual Urgency of Poetry with Carolyn Forché
On today's episode, poet and activist Carolyn Forché shares insights on the power of poetry, the concepts of migration and movement during a lockdown, and reads from her new collection.
August 21, 2020
Encore: Cities and Our Future with N.K. Jemisin
On this episode, we talk to Hugo Award winning author N.K. Jemisin about reckoning with real themes in a fantasy world.
August 18, 2020
Encore: Jennifer Egan on Recovering From Coronavirus, Shaping Opportunity From Cataclysm
On this episode, PEN America president Jennifer Egan discusses her own bout with a suspected case of coronavirus and how we can pull together as a literary community.
August 14, 2020
Encore: Unorthodox with Deborah Feldman
We speak to author of UNORTHODOX Deborah Feldman, whose hit memoir about leaving an ultra-religious Jewish community in Brooklyn is now the basis of a Netflix series.
August 11, 2020
Episode 101: Tough Question, Young Adult Literature, A Brief Hiatus
In this episode, we speak to PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel about Trump, social media, and news deserts for our weekly TOUGH QUESTIONS segment. Then, Gina Chung talks to award-winning YA author Francisco X. Stork, whose new book ILLEGAL published earlier this week. They discuss how the book was informed by his own experiences as both a lawyer and an immigrant and the importance of highlighting social issues in literature for young people.
August 07, 2020
Episode 100: Present in Courage with Nikky Finney
On this 100th episode of The PEN Pod, we talk to poet Nikky Finney, an award-winning writer and teacher. She reflects on how literary celebrations have been redefined amid the pandemic, how she's woven together the personal and the political, and how she approaches mentorship.
August 06, 2020
Episode 99: Censorship in Hollywood with James Tager
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we discuss how Chinese government censorship has reached into Hollywood and the U.S. filmmaking industry. PEN America is out with a new report today looking at that issue, and we talk to the lead author James Tager.
August 05, 2020
Episode 98: Building World in Memoir with David Adjmi
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to playwright David Adjmi whose first foray into nonfiction is out now, a memoir called LOT SIX. The book contends with his evolution as a writer, his vulnerabilities, and growing up in a Syrian Jewish community in New York. He talks of moving from playwriting to nonfiction and how theater is evolving amid the pandemic.
August 04, 2020
Episode 97: A Time To Be More Fearless with Sholeh Wolpe and Nathalie Handal
Two poets and writers discuss the power of literature at a moment like ours; how writing about diaspora and dislocation are powerful tools in the literary arsenal; and what they're telling their students about writing amid a pandemic. Sholeh Wolpe and Nathalie Handal join us for an extended conversation in this edition of The PEN Pod.
August 03, 2020
Episode 96: Portland, Breaking Up the Social Media Giants, and Disinformation with Suzanne Nossel
This week, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel is out with her new book Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. Even so, she makes time to parse through some of the biggest free speech questions of the week in our TOUGH QUESTIONS segment. We talk about the big tech companies and how breaking them up might actually benefit free speech; the drawdown of federal law enforcement in Portland; plus, disinformation on the horizon.
July 31, 2020
Episode 95: Memorial Drive with Natasha Trethewey
On this extended edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to Pulitzer winner and two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey about her new memoir MEMORIAL DRIVE, a story that honors the life of her mother and how her mother's life shaped her own. Plus, she discusses the changes underway in the American south around historical memory and race.
July 30, 2020
Episode 94: Allying Against Online Harassment with Viktorya Vilk and Emily May
PEN America is launching a series of webinars teaching you how to support friends or colleagues who are enduring online harassment. PEN America is teaming up with Hollaback, the anti-harassment organization, to lead that series, and in this episode, we talk to Hollaback's co-founder Emily May, as well as PEN America's Viktorya Vilk.
July 29, 2020
Episode 93: Dare to Speak with Suzanne Nossel
Today is publication day for PEN America's Suzanne Nossel. Her new book DARE TO SPEAK: DEFENDING FREE SPEECH FOR ALL goes on sale today, and her national book tour starts tonight. In this conversation, she discusses why she wrote this book now, and how she hopes it might help us all navigate the tricky terrain of free speech, cancel culture, and free expression.
July 28, 2020
Episode 92: Mentorship Remotely with Shannon Gatewood and Rachel M. Harper
Today we continue our series of conversations between PEN America Emerging Voices Fellows and their mentors. We speak with Shannon Gatewood and her mentor, novelist Rachel M. Harper, about the experience of virtual mentorship and writing about identity.
July 27, 2020
Episode 91: Portland, Michael Cohen, and Defending Speech with Suzanne Nossel
It's Friday, which means it's time for our weekly Tough Questions segment with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. We discuss the First Amendment implications of the showdowns in Portland, Michael Cohen's return to prison, and Suzanne's new book, DARE TO SPEAK, publishing Tuesday.
July 24, 2020
Episode 90: Avoid the Obvious with Jaswinder Bolina
On today's edition, we speak with poet and writer Jaswinder Bolina, whose new essay collection OF COLOR just published this summer. He talks about how the text does and doesn't respond to our current moment of racial reckoning, and he offers his guidance for how to put pen to paper.
July 23, 2020
Episode 89: Hollywood in Transition with Kim Masters
The entertainment industry is searching for ways out of the lockdown—while it also reckons with systemic racial inequalities. The Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters walks us through just how Hollywood is changing for writers and creative professionals, and what might happen when we emerge from the pandemic.
July 22, 2020
Sisters in Hate with Seyward Darby
How has the far-right movement attracted so many people, in particular women? Reporter Seyward Darby has been documenting how three such individuals came to occupy positions of power within the hate movement in America. We talk about her new book SISTERS IN HATE: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism. Plus, unidentified federal agents swooping in on the streets of Portland.
July 21, 2020
Episode 87: Writing and Mentorship with M. Kiguwa and Antonia Crane
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we kick off our series of conversations with our Emerging Voices fellows and their mentors, starting with M. Kiguwa and her mentor Antonia Crane. They talk about how mentorship has changed amid the pandemic and what the next generation of writers might bring to the table.
July 20, 2020
Episode 86: Bari Weiss, White House Briefings, and Disinformation with Suzanne Nossel
On this Friday edition of The PEN Pod, we put our toughest questions about free speech to PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, author of the forthcoming book DARE TO SPEAK: DEFENDING FREE SPEECH FOR ALL. We discuss The New York Times' writer Bari Weiss, the renewed hostility of White House press briefings, and the looming threat of election-related disinformation.
July 17, 2020
Episode 85: Sex, Lies, and the Arab World with Leïla Slimani
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to author Leïla Slimani about her first non-fiction work, Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women's Intimate Lives in the Arab World. She profiles women who share with her the balance between their public and private lives, and discusses prospects for change when it comes to women and sexuality in the Middle East and North Africa. Plus, we preview two new reading lists now available at PEN.org.
July 16, 2020
Episode 84: Tearing Down Systemic Racism in Hollywood with Bianca Sams, Michelle Amor, and Hilliard Guess
On today's edition, we bring you a roundtable conversation with the leaders of the Black committee of writers at the Writers Guild of America West. We discuss how the pipeline for Black talent in Hollywood is broken, ensuring that writers of color are being paid to tell their own stories, and how the major Hollywood players need to do more than just lip service to serve racial justice.
July 15, 2020
Episode 83: Race, Place, and Belonging with Sejal Shah
On this episode, PEN America's Gina Chung talks with author Sejal Shah, whose new memoir This Is One Way To Dance: Essays on Race, Place, & Belonging published this June. They discuss how the collection is meant to defy stereotypes and reshape narratives about South Asian identity in the U.S.
July 14, 2020
Episode 82: Catrachos with Roy G. Guzmán
On today's edition of The PEN Pod, we speak with poet Roy G. Guzmán about their debut collection of poems, Catrachos. They call it something like a Bildungsroman, a collection that reflects queer identity and resilience.
July 13, 2020
Episode 81: Tough Questions about Hong Kong, Tik Tok, and Harper's Magazine Letter with Suzanne Nossel
It's Friday, which means it's time for our weekly "Tough Questions" segment with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, author of the forthcoming book Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. As we near the book's publication date, we discuss how the social platforms are dealing with the crisis in Hong Kong; we dissect the U.S. government's threat to ban the ever-popular Tik Tok; and we delve into the controversy surrounding a letter in Harper's Magazine about free speech.
July 10, 2020
Episode 80: Pressures on Kids Amid the Pandemic with Ed Lin
On this episode of The PEN Pod, we speak with YA author Ed Lin about his forthcoming book David Tung Can't Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College, and on the pressures and universal experiences young people are facing. Plus, our weekly World Voices Festival reading list.
July 08, 2020
Episode 79: We Are Living a Deeply Mythic Moment with Julia Alvarez
On this Tuesday edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to acclaimed writer Julia Alvarez about her new book AFTERLIFE; what we can learn about empathy from reading; and the parallels in writing books for younger readers and books for adults.
July 07, 2020
Episode 78: So Much to Unpack and Unlearn with Lynn Nottage and Jeremy O. Harris
On this edition of The PEN Pod, playwrights Jeremy O. Harris and Lynn Nottage in conversation about the theater, its future, and abolishing the structures of anti-Blackness in the theater world. Plus, how policymakers are rethinking regulation for Facebook and Twitter.
July 06, 2020
Episode 77: Social Media, Mary Trump, and Hong Kong Woes with Suzanne Nossel
As we head into the Independence Day weekend, we have an extended version of our weekly TOUGH QUESTIONS segment with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. In this edition, we talk social media platforms, Mary Trump's book, and the status of free expression in Hong Kong.
July 03, 2020
Episode 76: Small Things We Cannot See That Change Our Lives with Ed Yong
On this edition of The PEN Pod, PEN America's Gina Chung talks to science journalist Ed Yong about the missed signals of the COVID-19 pandemic, what we can learn from microbes, and how a splintering of information may have worsened the pandemic. Then, stone soup for our most recent installment of Writers Who Cook.
July 02, 2020
Episode 75: No Reason Not to Produce More Plays with Jacqueline Goldfinger
On today's episode, we talk about playwriting amid the pandemic and how plays might be viewed through a new lens in the wake of a global virus. Then, we hear a conversation about justice and children's literature with authors Fatima Shaik, Amy Nathan, and Sharon Langley.
July 01, 2020
Episode 74: Lakewood with Megan Giddings
We talk to author Megan Giddings about her book LAKEWOOD, a novel that navigates dark themes of human experimentation, exploitation, and the lengths we go to when our loved ones' lives are on the line. Then we talk about a disturbing case of retaliation against a Russian theater director.
June 30, 2020
Episode 73: Everywhere You Don't Belong with Gabriel Bump
On today's episode, we speak to debut novelist Gabriel Bump about his book Everywhere You Don't Belong, and how this Chicago story is a coming of age book that also grapples with some of the major issues confronting America right now. Plus, a World Voices Festival reading list.
June 29, 2020
Episode 72: Tough Questions Plus Renewed Calls to Support Writers
On today's edition of The PEN Pod, we discuss rescinded college admissions for students who use hate speech; the dismissal of multiple leaders from U.S.-funded broadcasters; and how disinformation might impact the election—that's all part of our Tough Questions segment with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. Then, a group of literary organizations petitions the mayor to support writers and the literary community.
June 26, 2020
Episode 71: Collecting History with Tyree Boyd-Pates
On today's edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to curator Tyree Boyd-Pates at Los Angeles' Autry Museum about a new project to collect artifacts from the COVID-19 era. Then, we mark what would have been Octavia Butler's birthday.
June 25, 2020
Episode 70: Richard Nixon for Kids with Elizabeth Levy and Fatima Shaik
Children's' and YA book author Elizabeth Levy shares more on her new book about Nixon, as well as her thoughts on truth and government in a conversation with writer Fatima Shaik. Then we look at a number of new books out around criminal justice.
June 24, 2020
Episode 69: The Classic Fact Check with Snopes' Alex Kasprak
On today's edition, we dive into the deep dark world of internet disinformation with investigative journalist Alex Kasprak of Snopes.com. Then, a reading list celebrating debuts from Black LGBTQIA+ authors for this pride month.
June 23, 2020
Episode 68: Writers Called to Reimagine the World with Lisa Ko
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to author Lisa Ko about what the current crises demand of writers, and how her work might be read now amid the pandemic. Plus, a federal judge allows the publication of John Bolton's memoir to proceed.
June 22, 2020
Episode 67: Juneteenth in Tulsa with Quraysh Ali Lansana, Plus Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
Today, we mark this Juneteenth with a conversation with historian Quraysh Ali Lansana. The Tulsa-based writer discusses the weekend's planned Trump rally, the legacies of anti-Black racism in Oklahoma, and how writers are coming together in solidarity. Then, we turn to free expression threats amid the election, liability for social platforms, and John Bolton's book with our CEO Suzanne Nossel for our Friday TOUGH QUESTIONS segment.
June 19, 2020
Episode 66: Poets and the Pandemic with Vincent Bristow
On today's episode, we talk to poet Vincent Bristow, part of the Open Doors arts and justice collaborative here in New York City that works mainly with people impacted by street violence. He speaks about how COVID has impacted his community and shares an original poem. Then, we listen in on a conversation from our These Truths podcast between writers Alexis Okeowo and Ishmael Beah.
June 18, 2020
Episode 65: The Importance of Memory with Jaquira Diaz
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk with author of ORDINARY GIRLS: A MEMOIR Jaquira Diaz. She highlights how the stories of Black and Brown girls, especially those of color, were so hard to come by in her childhood, and the erasure of Black Puerto Ricans in the historical memory. Then, John Bolton is sued by the White House.
June 17, 2020
Episode 64: Putting Tech Under The Microscope with Ainissa Ramirez
We talk to writer and scientist Ainissa Ramirez about how eight inventions have shaped humanity, which she explores in her book THE ALCHEMY OF US. We talk about the often unheralded women and people of color who are part of the story of technology in recent centuries and how tech is influenced by our own biases.
June 16, 2020
Episode 63: Honoring Literary Excellence with Ruben Quesada and Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf
Today we open submissions for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards, one of the most diverse literary award lineups in the country. But how do awards help shape and diversify the literary canon? And how can we view awards in the context of all the crises happening across the country. PEN America's own Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf and poet Ruben Quesada help us understand all of it, plus Quesada shares an original poem
June 15, 2020
Episode 62: When Incremental Change Isn't Fast Enough with Suzanne Nossel
It's Friday, which means it's time to pose tough questions about free speech and free expression to PEN America's CEO Suzanne Nossel. This week, while protesters are making major change, we ask the hard question: Is free expression back on its heels? We talk about The New York Times op-ed debacle, the president's selective affinity for the First Amendment, and how the publishing industry is impacted by this moment.
June 12, 2020
Episode 61: The Undocumented Americans with Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
On this episode of The PEN Pod, we speak to author of THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. She discusses telling a fuller story of the undocumented experience and the need for solidarity amid manifold crises. And just a note: this episode includes discussion of mental health.
June 11, 2020
Episode 60: Sharing Your Voices, Accentuating Others with Pawan Dhingra
Pawan Dhingra's new book explores the hyper-educated child but also how the next generation might cope with the current crises. Then, as summer approaches, we're offering a new program for high school and college students eager to engage on the issues of free speech and free expression.
June 10, 2020
Episode 59: A Family Saga with Nguyen Phan Que Mai
Nguyen Phan Que Mai weaves together a fictional family saga with the real-life traumas of Vietnam's tumultuous 20th century in her new work THE MOUNTAINS SING. Plus, a reading list for our moment.
June 09, 2020
Episode 58: The Passion of Protest with Simran Jeet Singh
In this installment of The PEN Pod, we check in with author and activist Simran Jeet Singh; he's out with a new children's book, and he reflects on the protests he's witnessed in New York City. Then we get an excerpt from our PEN World Voices Festival podcast These Truths with a conversation among three writers.
June 08, 2020
Episode 57: Fighting Anti-Black Violence, Defending the First Amendment
On today's edition, we talk to our CEO Suzanne Nossel about what literary organizations can do at this moment of crisis as part of our weekly series "Tough Questions." Then, we get insights from general counsel of the Authors Guild, playwright, and TV writer Cheryl L. Davis on how books and literature can help us better understand this difficult moment of unrest.
June 05, 2020
Episode 56: Honoring an Imprisoned Chinese Writer; Plus a These Truths Conversation
On today's edition of The PEN Pod, we announce the winner of our 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, imprisoned Chinese writer and activist Xu Zhiyong. We speak to his friend, scholar and advocate Teng Biao. Then, an excerpt of a conversation between authors Yuri Herrera and Fernanda Melchor, part of our PEN World Voices podcast These Truths
June 04, 2020
Episode 55: The Twin Epidemics of COVID-19 and Police Violence with Karen Attiah
On this episode of The PEN Pod, we check in with Karen Attiah, journalist and global opinions editor at the Washington Post. She reflects on the intersecting political crises of COVID-19 and state-sanctioned violence, and urges us to turn the lens of criticism inward. Then, we want to hear about how we can use this platform to uplift more voices.
June 03, 2020
Episode 54: #TheShowMustBePaused
Today, we take a break from our normal production schedule alongside others participating in #TheShowMustBePaused.
June 02, 2020
Episode 53: An American Reckoning
A weekend of demonstrations and excessive violence by state actors has led to a major reckoning for the First Amendment. On this episode, we hear from a Reuters journalist shot with rubber bullets by police in Minneapolis. And then our own Nora Benavidez examines the implications this weekend may have for protest rights moving forward.
June 01, 2020
Episode 52: Magical Thinking with Wayetu Moore, Plus Trump's Twitter Meltdown with Suzanne Nossel
On today's edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to Liberian American author Wayetu Moore about her memoir The Dragons, The Giant, The Women, and how magical thinking helped her and her family persevere through war. Then, Suzanne Nossel walks us through the president's executive order targeting social media companies.
May 29, 2020
Episode 51: Poetry and Protest with Nora Benavidez and Ann Kjellberg
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we explore how protest is increasingly being criminalized on the state level with our own Nora Benavidez. Then, this week would've been poet Joseph Brodsky's 80th birthday. We talk about a new collection of his work and why it still resonates with Ann Kjellberg.
May 28, 2020
Episode 50: Imagining a Time Beyond with Helen Zia
Today, as PEN America and the Asian American Writers' Workshop host a day of solidarity, we talk about the spike in anti-Asian sentiment with longtime activist and author Helen Zia. Also, it's our 50th episode. Let us know how we're doing, what you're reading, and what we can do to make the next 50 episodes even better.
May 27, 2020
Episode 49: Tulsa's Busiest Bookseller, Plus Fighting Anti-Asian Sentiment
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we connect with Tulsa's Jeff Martin, who runs Magic City Books and leads PEN America's Tulsa chapter. He talks about how he's keeping the community there connected and what might change about bookselling after the crisis. Then we discuss anti-Asian racism amid the pandemic.
May 26, 2020
Episode 48: Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel, Plus How a Dallas Bookseller Keeps Going
On this episode, our CEO Suzanne Nossel addresses questions about government surveillance, White House retaliation against journalism, and imprisoned writers globally in our weekly TOUGH QUESTIONS segment. Then, Will Evans and Cristina Rodriguez from bookseller Deep Vellum in Dallas talk about how they are keeping the literary community in Texas vibrant
May 22, 2020
Episode 47: Questioning Everything More with Carmen Boullosa
On this edition, we speak with poet and author Carmen Boullosa about her new text, The Book of Anna, and urges readers to more fully dive into the books they pick up. Then, we cover the Senate's move to support global journalism.
May 21, 2020
Episode 46: A Life Sentence with Jewher Ilham
As part of our ongoing interviews about writers detained globally, today we speak with Jewher Ilham, whose father, Uyghur economist, writer, and professor Ilham Tohti, was sentenced to life in a Chinese prison. She discusses the last day she saw her father and why she and those who support him will never relent until he is released.
May 20, 2020
Episode 45: The Freedom to Write with Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Ahmed Naji
Today, a special edition of The PEN Pod, as we launch our global Freedom to Write Index of imprisoned writers and public intellectuals globally. First, we speak with PEN America's own Karin Deutsch Karlekar about the countries that imprisoned the most writers in 2019. And then, an essay from novelist Ahmed Naji about his own time in an Egyptian prison and the global campaign for his freedom.
May 19, 2020
Episode 44: Crimean Tatars Under Threat with Myroslava Gongadze
Today on The PEN Pod, we mark the 76th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars by speaking with VOA reporter Myroslava Gongadze, who walks us through how Crimea's indigenous people are facing severe repression under Russian occupation. Plus, we check out writers who cook.
May 18, 2020
Episode 43: Crisis, Opportunity, and the Vitality of Literature with Rebecca Makkai; Plus Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
On this Friday's edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to acclaimed author Rebecca Makkai about working amid a crisis, parallels between her work and our experience now, and the need for art and literature. Plus, in our weekly TOUGH QUESTIONS segment with Suzanne Nossel, how Plandemic made waves and the president's attacks on journalists.
May 15, 2020
Episode 42: Re-Reading Mary Shelley with Eileen Hunt Botting
On this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk all things Mary Shelley with scholar Eileen Hunt Botting, who has called Shelly's text THE LAST MAN the first major modern pandemic novel. She explores how the book was informed by Shelley's own life and how we might interpret it now.
May 14, 2020
Episode 41: After Chaos Upends Everything with Lulu Miller; Plus, Remembering Carolyn Reidy
On today's episode, we explore the new book WHY FISH DON'T EXIST with its author Lulu Miller, who manages to weave together a scientific narrative with a personal one. Then, we remember the late Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon and Schuster.
May 13, 2020
Episode 40: The Virtual Campus with Jonathan Friedman
On this, our 40th episode of The PEN Pod, we take you to the Zoom classroom, where students have been learning in a total virtual environment for two months now. What are the complications for free speech and expression? We turn to our own Jonathan Friedman to discuss.
May 12, 2020
Episode 39: A Hungarian Tale with Mark Baczoni, Plus THESE TRUTHS
In this installment of The PEN Pod, we speak to writer and translator Mark Baczoni, who has just translated Janos Szekely's novel TEMPTATION into English. And then, we preview the new THESE TRUTHS podcast with a conversation between essayist John Freeman and novelist Elif Shafak.
May 11, 2020
Episode 38: Social Media Platform Reform with Suzanne Nossel; Plus Novelist Andrey Kurkov
In this edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and author of the forthcoming book DARE TO SPEAK, about how the social media platforms are taking new governance steps. Then we check in with our colleagues in Ukraine for how the literary community there is weathering the coronavirus.
May 08, 2020
Episode 37: Claiming Ourselves Through Language with Jose Antonio Vargas
On this episode, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas explores how the pandemic response is excluding undocumented people, as well as the unique freedom that is inherent in writing. Then, the PEN World Voices Festival is back.
May 07, 2020
Episode 36: Letting Go of Our Illusions with Charles Yu
On today's edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to author and screenwriter Charles Yu about his new book and entertainment stereotypes. We also catch up with PEN America's Polina Sadovskaya about how Russia and former Soviet states have responded to the pandemic.
May 06, 2020
Episode 35: An American in Italy with Wallis Wilde-Menozzi
On today's episode, we talk with author Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, based in Italy, about her experience weathering the pandemic in Parma. Then, the Pulitzer Prizes are announced.
May 05, 2020
Episode 34: Thrillers in a Time of Crisis with Karin Slaughter
On today's episode of The PEN Pod, we talk to bestselling author Karin Slaughter about writing thrillers, pandemics, and the work she's doing to support local libraries.
May 04, 2020
Episode 33: Unorthodox with Deborah Feldman, Plus Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
On this episode, we speak to author of UNORTHODOX Deborah Feldman, whose hit memoir about leaving an ultra-religious Jewish community in Brooklyn is now the basis of a Netflix series. Plus, if it's Friday, it's time for Tough Questions about free speech with Suzanne Nossel. This week, the virus, online harassment, and YouTube.
May 01, 2020
Episode 32: Critically Engaging with the World with Dinaw Mengestu
On this edition, we talk to novelist and PEN America trustee Dinaw Mengestu for how he's teaching writing amid the pandemic, and what we can learn from his work about uncertainty. Then our own Julie Trebault discusses the challenges facing artists amid a global crackdown against artistic expression.
April 30, 2020
Episode 31: The Spiritual Urgency of Poetry with Carolyn Forché
On today's episode, poet and activist Carolyn Forché shares insights on the power of poetry, the concepts of migration and movement during a lockdown, and reads from her new collection.
April 29, 2020
Episode 30: A Photo and a Family Saga with Brandon Shimoda
On this, our 30th episode, we talk to PEN America Literary Award winner Brandon Shimoda and the epic family tale he tells in The Grave on the Wall. Plus, our efforts to get state governors to support local journalism.
April 28, 2020
Episode 29: A Search for Empathy with Ramiza Koya
On today's episode for Monday, April 27, we talk to debut novelist Ramiza Koya about her new book THE ROYAL ABDULS; she discusses her own health struggles and how her community in Portland has come to support her. Plus, how small and independent publishing houses are coping with COVID-19.
April 27, 2020
Episode 28: Endurance, Survival, and Poetry with Rigoberto Gonzalez; Plus Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
On this Friday edition of The PEN Pod, we talk to poet Rigoberto Gonzalez about how family history helps define his work and about how he still sees plenty of beauty in our socially isolated world. Then, it's time for Tough Question with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.
April 24, 2020
Episode 27: The Paris Review Transforms with Emily Nemens, Plus Supporting the Literary Arts
On this episode, we talk to the editor of the Paris Review Emily Nemens about how the magazine has changed, and about her new book. We also hear from listeners, and discuss ways cities can support the literary arts.
April 23, 2020
Episode 26: Belonging in the World with Mimi Lok, Plus the Outlook From Hong Kong
For Wednesday's episode, we talk about belonging, mentorship, and human connections with author Mimi Lok. We also discuss how the coronavirus is impacting the ability to demonstrate in Hong Kong.
April 22, 2020
Episode 25: The Possibility of Surprise with Emily St. John Mandel, Plus Local Journalists as Heroes
On today's edition, we talk to novelist Emily St. John Mandel about her new book and a bit about her own writing on a post-pandemic future. We're also joined by PEN America's own Katie Zanecchia to talk about the organization's work elevating the reporting of local journalists.
April 21, 2020
Episode 24: Cities and Our Future with N.K. Jemisin, Plus a Virtual Translation Festival with Mary Ann Newman
On this Monday's episode, we talk to Hugo Award winning author N.K. Jemisin reckoning with real themes in a fantasy world, and then Catalan translator Mary Ann Newman on bringing a translation festival online.
April 20, 2020
Episode 23: This Moment Will Change Literally Everything with Franklin Leonard; Plus Tough Questions with Suzanne Nossel
On this Friday, we talk to film executive and PEN America board member Franklin Leonard on the coronavirus crisis' impact on screenwriters and the dynamic in Hollywood. Then, it's our weekly Tough Questions segment with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.
April 17, 2020
Episode 22: Connecting Through Translation with Ali Araghi; Plus Prisons and E-Books
On this episode, we discuss translation and uncertainty with debut Iranian novelist Ali Araghi. We also cover a letter from PEN America to the companies that make e-readers for the nation's prisons and jails, insisting they waive all pay-per-access fees for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
April 16, 2020
Episode 21: The Magic of Writing with Bernardine Evaristo; Plus, Washington Post's Paul Farhi
On this edition, we talk to British author Bernardine Evaristo about her latest novel and how she was able to assemble its incredible assortment of characters. Then, we discuss journalism and how reporters are handling White House briefings with Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi.
April 15, 2020
Episode 20: Coronavirus Behind Bars: Nobody Can Afford Not to Care Right Now
In this special edition, we explore how the coronavirus pandemic is raging through the nation's prisons and jails. We talk to our own Caits Meissner for the latest on how the pandemic is impacting the writers we work with on the inside. We discuss reporting on the outbreak with investigative journalist Beth Shelburne. And then we hear a poem from the inside by Justin Rovillos Monson.
April 14, 2020
Episode 19: Writing Duo Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell on Science and the Outbreak
Medical examiner Dr. Judy Melinek and her husband/writing partner T.J. Mitchell discuss writing about medicine and science amid a pandemic (and experiencing their own quarantine). Plus, the White House's unfounded attack on Voice of America, and a new musical series from PEN America, Just Press Play.
April 13, 2020
Episode 18: Novelist Ruchika Tomar on Inequality and the Outbreak, Plus Tough Questions With Suzanne Nossel
For this Friday, we talk to PEN/Hemingway Award winner Ruchika Tomar about her debut novel A Prayer for Travelers and on the inequities of the outbreak. And then our weekly segment Tough Questions with our CEO Suzanne Nossel.
April 10, 2020
Episode 17: Are We Really In This Together? With M. NourbeSe Philip
In this episode, we talk about the pandemic, poetry, and the inequalities of the outbreak with M. NourbeSe Philip, and she shares an original poem. Also, PEN America and a broad coalition call on Congress to include local news in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
April 09, 2020
Episode 16: War and Peace With Yiyun Li
On this episode, 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award winner Yiyun Li talks about her virtual book club, currently working its way through War and Peace. Also, the trend of information lockdown amid the crisis, and how you can help writers in need.
April 08, 2020
Episode 15: Jennifer Egan on Recovering From Coronavirus, Shaping Opportunity From Cataclysm
On this episode, PEN America president Jennifer Egan discusses her own bout with a suspected case of coronavirus and how we can pull together as a literary community.
April 07, 2020
Episode 14: Reading in an Era of Contagion With David L. Ulin
On this episode, we talk with book critic and writer David L. Ulin about books to read amid a pandemic. We also discuss the reaction to the Navy dismissing a captain who spoke out about the outbreak. Plus, a new reading list at PEN.org.
April 06, 2020
Episode 13: Tough Questions About Free Speech Amid the Pandemic With Suzanne Nossel
Today, we're launching a new weekly segment called Tough Questions, where we put your questions about free expression and the pandemic to our CEO Suzanne Nossel. Also today, the PEN America Writers' Emergency Fund is here to help. And a book recommendation from one of our listeners.
April 03, 2020
Episode 12: A World Turned Upside Down With Parnaz Foroutan
In today's episode, Parnaz Foroutan joins to talk about how immigrant voices are especially crucial to hear amid this crisis. We also look at two cases of free speech being curtailed under the cover of the virus, and we do a temperature check for the nation's jails and prisons.
April 02, 2020
Episode 11: A Seminal Moment for Our Species and Our World: A Conversation With Jamie Metzl
On this edition, futurist and author Jamie Metzl talks about the brave new world that the coronavirus pandemic might precede. Also on this episode, we preview a New York Daily News piece from our colleague Summer Lopez about journalists on the front lines of the crisis. And another listener comment.
April 01, 2020
Episode 10: Focusing on the Small Things With Fatima Shaik
On this our tenth episode, we catch up with writer Fatima Shaik, who discusses what it was like writing and reporting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and how it might be similar to our current situation. Plus, protest bills working their way through state legislatures, and a message from one of our listeners.
March 31, 2020
Episode 9: Reza Aslan on Attacks to Free Expression During the Pandemic
On this episode, writer and TV host Reza Aslan joins to talk about the norm-busting we've seen in recent weeks amid the coronavirus crisis and how he's focusing on work. We also look at proposals for bailing out the local news industry, plus a reading list from alumni of our Emerging Voices fellowship.
March 30, 2020
BONUS EPISODE: Gregory Pardlo Reads Carrie Fountain's "The Jungle"
In this special bonus episode of the podcast, Pulitzer-winner Gregory Pardlo reads Carrie Fountain's poem "The Jungle."
March 28, 2020
Episode 8: Poet Gregory Pardlo Gets Reacquainted With Himself
On this episode, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo on getting reacquainted with his favorite books on the craft of writing, and reflecting on his own past. Also, tips on how to stay mentally fit while working from home. And, we want to hear from you. Record a voice message for us! https://anchor.fm/penamerica/message
March 27, 2020
Episode 7: Mental Health and the Outbreak With Andrew Solomon
As the national debate over balancing the risks of social isolation heats up, author and clinical psychologist Andrew Solomon discusses the consequences for mental health. Then, how student journalists are covering the crisis remotely. And tips on how you can avoid becoming a disinformation disseminator.
March 26, 2020
Episode 6: A Legal Victory Against Trump; Remembering Terrence McNally
In this edition, PEN America celebrates a victory against President Trump's efforts to retaliate against the press in our lawsuit. We'll talk what's next. Then, we speak to New York Times theater critic Jesse Green about the life of playwright Terrence McNally.
March 25, 2020
Episode 5: Disinformation Battle Stations With Jane Lytvynenko
For this episode of The PEN Pod, we talk to BuzzFeed senior reporter Jane Lytvynenko, who covers disinformation and security. She discusses the major disinformation that's currently circulating about the coronavirus, where it might be coming from, and what we can do to stop sharing false stories. Plus, books about coronavirus are flooding Amazon, but are they accurate? And a bookseller reflects on his role in the literary community.
March 24, 2020
Episode 4: An Exercise in Hopeful Thinking and Magic With Chip Rolley
On this episode for Monday, March 23, we talk to Chip Rolley, senior director of literary programs at PEN America and director of the World Voices Festival. He discusses what festivals mean to readers and writers and what might come next for the book world. We also discuss the financial hardships hitting alt-weeklies, and preview a poetry reading list over at PEN.org.
March 23, 2020
Episode 3: Social Distancing aka Social Solidarity With Alexander Chee
In this episode for Friday, March 20, a new Pew survey shows that Americans are paying close attention to the coronavirus, but that misinformation is seeping into the dialogue. Then, an interview with award-winning author Alexander Chee for his thoughts on the craft of writing during a period of social distancing. And finally, a poem read by PEN America's own Michelle Franke.
March 20, 2020
Episode 2: Wash Your Hands, Read a Book, Protect Your Heart With Jennifer Finney Boylan
On this edition for Thursday, March 19, 2020, we explore a good news story out of Cuba where an artist and dissident has been released following dozens of arrests. Then, we turn to Jennifer Finney Boylan, New York Times columnist and author of the forthcoming book Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs. Then, journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak and how they're working together.
March 19, 2020
Episode 1: We're Here!
It's day one for "The PEN POD." On this first edition of our limited-run podcast: a little bit about why we're doing this; an interview with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, author of the forthcoming book Dare to Speak; and what should be on your bookshelf this week.
March 18, 2020
Trailer: Starting March 18, "The PEN Pod"
Starting Wednesday, March 18 the literary and free expression group PEN America will bring you "The PEN Pod." With books tours halted and the literary community facing major difficulties, we want to bring daily insights and reader conversations to you. Tune in starting Wednesday, March 18 for our first episode.
March 15, 2020