Hear from 100 renowned writers at this literary festival in Greenwich Village

Speakers include Roxane Gay, Min Jin Lee, Tara Westover, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jodi Picoult.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Things to Do Editor
PEN America 2023 World Voices Festival of International Literature, New York, May 2023.
Photograph: By Beowulf Sheehan

Great authors help readers understand the world, and this upcoming literary festival invites everyone to understand their fascinating writing process. 

The PEN World Voices Festival is back for its 20th edition running from May 8 to 11 in New York City, with most events in Greenwich Village. With 100 writers featured in 35 events, the festival celebrates the power of literature both to transport and galvanize. The festival features literary superstars like Roxane Gay, Min Jin Lee, Tara Westover, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jodi Picoult. 

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The PEN World Voices Festival was founded by the renowned novelist Salman Rushdie, Michael Roberts, and Esther Allen after the September 11 terrorist attacks as a way to keep dialogue alive between the United States and the world. To this day, the festival works to present varied voices and engage in challenging topics. This year's featured speakers represent more than 25 countries. 

"This festival is an open invitation to gather as a community and sit in the same room with some of our favorite novelists, memoirists, translators, journalists, and poets—to breathe in their brilliance and transcend international borders, for a love of words and ideas," said event co-curator Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, PEN America’s Chief of Literary Programs.

People sit on a stage at the PEN America 2023 World Voices of International Literature
Photograph: By Beowulf Sheehan

Here are a few can't-miss events at the festival

  • A panel of journalists—Patricia Evangelista, Jonathan Blitzer, and Patrick Radden Keefe with moderator George Packer—recalling their risky confrontations with power (May 8)
  • A talk with Kelly Link and Marlon James about collapsing the boundary between genre and literary fiction (May 8)
  • Jenny Egan, Geetanjali Shree, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin with moderator Marie Myung-Ok Lee on novelistic style and form breaking open our reality (May 8)
  • Jodi Picoult and PEN America President Jennifer Finney Boylan on biases against and perceptions of fiction with predominantly women readerships (May 9)
  • Mona Awad, Victor LaValle, and Stephen Graham Jones with moderator Erin E. Adams on horror’s exorcism of societal demons (May 9)
  • Roxane Gay, Leigh Newman, and Min Jin Lee with Matthew Ortile on the importance of mentorship and community in a solitary profession (May 10)
  • A discussion on the censorship of American theater led by Lynn Nottage with Jeanine Tesori, Moisés Kaufman, Carlyle Brown, and John Weidman (May 10)
  • Jessica Knoll, Kyle Dillon Hertz, and Vinson Cunningham with moderator Alexandra Schwartz on our era’s shifting notions of coming-of-age (May 10)
  • Marlon James, Safiya Sinclair, Astrid Roemer, and Naomi Jackson on the connections and distinctions between realities represented in the vastness and diversity of Caribbean literature (May 10)
  • Tara Westover, Margo Jefferson, and Joyce Carol Oates on writing others to approach the subject of the self (May 11)
  • Vigdis Hjorth, Jakuta Alikavazovic, and Amitava Kumar on literature that grapples with parents’ complex legacies in our lives (May 11)

Here's the full event list. Festival passes are available for $75, though you can also buy one-off tickets to each event.

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