The PEN Pod
By PEN America
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The PEN PodMar 19, 2020
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Attacking Racism Through National Solidarity; Plus, Tough Questions on Belarus, Misinformation, and a Texas Book Ban
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Festival Day Five: Brian Broome and Unapologetic Memoir
Festival Day Four: Kawai Strong Washburn and Magical Storytelling
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.
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.
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.
Special: Previewing the PEN World Voices Festival with Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf
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.
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.
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.
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.
Futureproof with Kevin Roose; Plus, Tough Questions on AI, Turkey, and Protest Rights
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.