The PEN Pod

The PEN Pod

By PEN America
As an organization that's all about the literary community, PEN America knows that the current health crisis is hitting our Members and friends particularly hard. This limited-run podcast, "The PEN Pod," is meant to provide regular updates and conversations about literature and free expression, and provide an outlet for our in-person events that have been postponed or canceled.

Join the conversation online at pen.org and on our social channels @PENAmerica. Thanks for tuning in.
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Episode 13: Tough Questions About Free Speech Amid the Pandemic With Suzanne Nossel

The PEN Pod

Episode 13: Tough Questions About Free Speech Amid the Pandemic With Suzanne Nossel

The PEN Pod

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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.
18:10
June 1, 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.
25:39
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.
23:25
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.
19:53
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.
17:41
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
20:36
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.
12:40
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. 
15:49
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.
16:52
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.
12:43
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.
20:13
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.
14:52
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.
11:42
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.
10:04
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.
16:08
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.
14:50
May 8, 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.
18:12
May 7, 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.
20:41
May 6, 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.
08:56
May 5, 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.
11:19
May 4, 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.
24:29
May 1, 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.
12:32
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.
12:28
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.
10:24
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.
10:52
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.
20:53
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.
10:57
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.
17:29
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.
12:42
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.
15:06
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.
21:20
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.
17:23
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.
21:10
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.
16:11
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.
13:35
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.
18:59
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.
12:52
April 9, 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.
10:10
April 8, 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.
12:01
April 7, 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.
09:51
April 6, 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.
12:53
April 3, 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.
10:51
April 2, 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.
12:12
April 1, 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. 
09:36
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.
12:26
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."
03:34
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
10:38
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. 
09:27
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.
10:59
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.
09:35
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.
10:38
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.
10:26
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.
09:26
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.
10:36
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.
00:45
March 15, 2020