Change Comes to PEN American Center

by Staff

PEN American Center, the central U.S. outpost for the international writers organization, will welcome a new president this spring and bid farewell this summer to its longtime executive director. Princeton philosophy professor and author Kwame Anthony Appiah is expected to be voted in next week to a one-year term as president and successor to Francine Prose, who has served two terms. Executive director Michael Roberts, who has served for eleven years in the post, will be leaving the organization at the end of June, with a successor yet to be named.

Roberts, who is departing PEN American Center in order to pursue other projects, was integral in the development of initiatives including Freedom to Write, an advocacy program for writers whose liberty is threatened as a result of their work, and the PEN World Voices festival, an annual literary gathering featuring performances, conversations, and readings with writers from around the world. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, PEN World Voices will take place this year from April 27 to May 3 in various venues throughout New York City.

PEN World Voices was praised by the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) as one of PEN American Center’s most worthwhile programs when the NBCC announced in January that it would award the organization the Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award. The NBCC also commended PEN American Center’s translation initiatives and the organization’s promotion of freedom of expression worldwide. The Sandrof Award, named for the first NBCC president, is given to recognize "dedication to book culture both long-standing and outstanding."