PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.
The center's annual World Voices Festival of International Literature features scores of panel discussions and readings that bring together international authors and public audiences.
PEN American Center is a writer-centered organization. PEN presidents, such as Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag and Salman Rushdie place themselves at the forefront of the struggle to oppose censorship and defend writers.
PEN American Center is comprised of 3,400 professional members who represent the most distinguished writers, translators and editors in the United States. PEN also welcomes associate members who come from all parts of the literary community—booksellers, librarians, students, passionate readers—and who share PEN’s ideals.
The direct involvement of this broad base of committed individuals forms the cornerstone of PEN’s ability to advocate for the rights of writers and readers at home and abroad. Additionally, Member Committees and groups such as the Translation Committee, the Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee, the Writers’ Roundtable Committee and the Women’s Literary Workshop are formed by Members for Members as a means to discuss and act on issues challenging their constituents.
International authors are featured in the annual World Voices Festival of International Literature, and a good number of them read from their work and speak on panels in their native tongue. These events always provide a live interpreter for English translation.