PEN America is a prestigious literary organization devoted to the freedom to write around the world. Their annual World Voices Festival brings together writers from around the world in a series of panels and talks. Although there have been a few programs spotlighting graphic novels over the years, they haven’t gone big on comics in a while.

That’s changing this year – and along with the focus on comics via their ongoing Illustrated PEN feature  – it’s a modern and necessary change, especially given the challenges facing cartoonists around the world. The whole program features everyone from Patti Smith to Trevor Noah to Salman Rushdie, with the theme of gender and power as the focus – pretty timely.

And cartoonists will have a lot to say about this. Meg Lemke, who also contributes to Illustrated Pen, helped curate the lineupcurate the lineup which includes:

  • Exposure: Gender, Sex and Power: A panel with Japanese sculptor/manga artist Rokudenashiko, Bangladeshi installation and performance artist Ali Asgar and others who, by boldly exploring the political contours of sex, gender and identity, have faced threats and persecution in their home countries. Moderated by Alexandra Munroe (Dixon Place; May 2)
  • Women in Ink: The New Yorker’s Liza Donnelly brings together cartoonists Roz Chast, Liana Finck and Emily Flake to talk about the unique challenges of succeeding in a traditionally male-dominated field. (Dixon Place; Saturday, May 6)
  • Two panels on Graphic Novels: Transcendent Obscenity, featuring Gengoroh Tagame(Japan), Simon Hanselmann (Australia), Julia Gfrörer (U.S.) and Jennifer Camper (co-founder of Queers and Comics)—popular graphic novelists experimenting with gender norms, BDSM, and erotic morbidity; and Drawing a Life, featuring Sandrine Revel (France), Sabrina Jones (U.S.), Gabrielle Bell (UK/U.S.) and Marcelino Truong (France/ Vietnam)—cartoonists who challenge the status quo every time they put pen to page. Moderated by Meg Lemke (MUTHA Magazine/ Illustrated PEN). (Dixon Place; Saturday, May 6)

More info and ticket information in the links.

The New York Times has more on the festival:

“Amid visa bans and an America First foreign policy, PEN World Voices is now an important antidote to an America at risk of only talking to itself, fanning baseless fears, and damaging relations with allies around the world,” Suzanne Nossel, PEN America’s executive director, said in a statement. “This year’s festival will center on both celebration and mobilization, rallying around PEN America’s mission to defend free expression and enable the breadth of voices vital to an open marketplace of ideas.”

The festival begins with “United Against Hate,” an evening of performance with the musicians Patti Smith and Ani DiFranco, as well as novelists including Colum McCann and Salman Rushdie.



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