PEN Parties with Pussy Riot, Salman Rushdie, and Toni Morrison

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The PEN American Center’s annual Literary Gala will be held on May 5, 2014 in New York City, and its director Susan Nossel has stated that members of the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, will be in attendance. This year’s Literary Gala will be the largest in PEN’s history with more than 500 guests. Literary hosts include Giannina Braschi, Robert Caro, Chang Rae Lee, Francine Prose, and David Remnick.

With a community of over 3,500 U.S. writers who are “working to break down barriers to free expression around the world,” PEN American Center is the largest of 145 such centers that are located in 101 countries.

The gala will present PEN’s highest honor, the Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, to Salman Rushdie for his role in founding the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.  Rushdie will be introduced by Toni Morrison, who received the Literary Service Award in 2008. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo will be recognized with the first-ever Digital Freedom Award for its “powerful new tool for communication and expression to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”

PEN HONORS SALMAN RUSHDIE, Key note speaker Toni Morrison

PEN HONORS SALMAN RUSHDIE, Key note speaker Toni Morrison

Gabriella Page-Fort and Giannina Braschi, literary host

Gabriella Page-Fort and Giannina Braschi, literary host

PEN GALA 2014 Red Carpet

PEN GALA 2014 Red Carpet

PEN Gala 2014

The Freedom to Write Award is given to “an imprisoned writer who has made significant contributions and endured personal sacrifice in the service of free expression.” PEN has announced that this year’s recipient will be Ilham Tohti of China. Tohti is an ethnic Uyghur Chinese writer, university professor, economist, and public intellectual. Tohti has long been harassed by the authorities in China for his unfavorable opinions about China’s treatment of the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The members of Pussy Riot, whom themselves were incarcerated for nearly two years due to their opinions concerning their own government, will present this award.  PEN FREE EXPRESSION

PEN writers and translators who signed a letter of protest to the Chinese government include Edward Albee, Paul Auster, Giannina Braschi, Don Delillo, EL Doctorow, Deborah Eisenberg, Jennifer Egan,  David Remnick, Salman Rushdie, Francine Prose and John Waters.

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