Learn More About PEN/Faulkner

Who is PEN/Faulkner?

We are a nonprofit organization based in DC that has been in operation for 41 years. We were founded by National Book Award-winner Mary Lee Settle, who established the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, now the largest annual peer-juried literary prize in America.

Some of our recent winners include Chloe Aridjis (Sea Monsters), Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (Call Me Zebra), and Imbolo Mbue (Behold the Dreamers).

What is PEN/Faulkner’s vision?

Imagine a world in which people with a diverse array of perspectives are engaged in meaningful conversations with literary figures, societal leaders, and (most importantly) each other. A world in which every child, no matter their background or circumstances, has access to robust literary educational opportunities.

That is our vision, which we have worked for more than 40 years to bring to life.

How does PEN/Faulkner achieve this vision?

On top of administering the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, our public literary programs bring contemporary authors together in conversation about urgent societal issues.

In our virtual fall 2020 season, our three events explored:

  • The modernization of stalking in the digital age in Literature on Screen: You with author Caroline Kepnes (YouHidden Bodies), actor Penn Badgley, and moderator Chris Klimek;
  • The effects of pandemics on human nature in Virus with authors Stephen King (The Stand), Lauren Beukes (Afterland), and Emma Donoghue (The Pull of the Stars), moderated by Daniel H. Pink (Drive); and
  • The use of speculative fiction to better understand our reality in Escape with authors Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), Rion Amilcar Scott (The World Doesn’t Require You), and Nisi Shawl (Everfair), moderated by Morgan Jerkins (Wandering in Strange Lands).

Meanwhile, our education programs provide students across DC with free books, author visits, and writing instruction. We believe that strong literacy skills are not only necessary for academic and career success, but are also essential for young people to participate constructively in a democracy, especially one that faces increasingly complex and global challenges.

Beyond strengthening students’ literacy skills and nurturing their belief in themselves, our programs aim to use literature to foster empathy and inspire students to own their stories.

  • Writers in Schools: Free books and author visits for Title I public and charter schools across DC.
  • Writing Workshops: Hands-on writing workshops led by trained, professional writers.
  • Writers in Residence: Long-term residencies with experienced writers, developed in partnership with educators.
  • Together We Read: A multi-school book club with author visits for students across DC.
  • Summer Writing Programs: Writing instruction, book discussions, workshops with guest authors, and more.
  • Nuestras Voces: An initiative that focuses on amplifying Latinx/Hispanic voices through bilingual programming and featuring Latinx storytellers and stories.

Why Your Support Matters

In the last five years, we’ve donated more than 20,000 books to young people across DC. Many of the students we serve start building their own libraries with the books we give them. Many more are inspired by the authors we connect them with – not just as readers, but as writers in their own right, too.

With your support, we can get more than 3,000 culturally relevant books directly into the hands of students over the next year. COVID-19 has severely impacted student learning, with inequitable access to virtual technologies and literacy opportunities disproportionately affecting lower-income students and creating greater challenges for educators.

Through our education programs, PEN/Faulkner is:

  • Listening and responding to our community’s real-time needs;
  • Reaching remote and isolated students through online sessions; and
  • Donating books to students who cannot participate virtually.

Every dollar and every share matters. You can make a general donation to support our organization’s efforts here, or share this page with your community. We deeply appreciate your support in whatever way you can give at this time.

#MyOneBook Compilation

We have loved hearing about all the books that changed your lives! Thank you for sharing your stories with us. They have been a timely reminder of how books can empower us and bring us closer together. Below, we’ve compiled all the books that have made a collective impact on the PEN/Faulkner community. We hope this list sparks some joy for you, like it did for us when we celebrated each book.

Interested in supporting our mission of inspiring the next generation of readers and writers? Donate now to our #GivingTuesday campaign, or make a general donation to support our organization’s efforts here.

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

“Reading this book always evokes a deep sense of longing for me to better understand where I come from and has actually inspired me to interview my own family members over the last few years about who they are.”

In the late 1970s Ondaatje returned to his native island of Sri Lanka. As he records his journey through the drug-like heat and intoxicating fragrances of that “pendant off the ear of India,” Ondaatje simultaneously retraces the baroque mythology of his Dutch-Ceylonese family. An inspired travel narrative and family memoir by an exceptional writer.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

“A gift from my great grandmother, the book’s poetic and spiritual notes on life helped guide my grandmother through the joys and sorrows of living, a gift she wanted to pass down to me.”

The Prophet is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and, above all, inspirational. Gibran’s musings are divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

“This book is a shared favorite of mine and my mother’s and it’ll always be special to me as it’s something we can both love, together.”

Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Elena Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its main characters, the fiery and unforgettable Lila and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflicted friendship. This first novel in the series follows Lila and Elena from their fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.

The Monster’s Ring by Bruce Coville

“At 11 years old, the idea that a building filled with magical items would appear if I could only get lost excited me. I tried very hard for months to get lost, but was cursed with an excellent memory of the roads in my town.”

Russell is sure that the ring he gets at Mr. Elives’ shop is just a silly magic trick, but he follows the instructions and twists the ring twice anyway–and becomes a monster!


Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

“After we read the book, my pre-k students demanded the end of naptime and mounted a strike of their own… My students are in high school and college now. I hope they remember Farmer Brown’s cows and their own classroom demands for change, and that they’re out in the world making good trouble.”

It was the typewriter heard ’round the world. When Farmer Brown’s cows began leaving him notes, that’s when his troubles started–and the animals’ fun commenced!

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

“It took me a year, off and on, to read the whole book. I can’t wait to retire so I can do it all over again.”

Swann’s Way is one of the preeminent novels of childhood: a sensitive boy’s impressions of his family and neighbors, all brought dazzlingly back to life years later by the taste of a madeleine. It also enfolds the short novel Swann in Love, an incomparable study of sexual jealousy that becomes a crucial part of the vast, unfolding structure of In Search of Lost Time. The first volume of the work that established Proust as one of the finest voices of the modern age–satirical, skeptical, confiding, and endlessly varied in his response to the human condition–Swann’s Way also stands on its own as a perfect rendering of a life in art, of the past recreated through memory.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

“I first read [this] when I was an angst-ridden teenager feeling like nothing in the world made any sense. Vonnegut gave voice to my anxieties and broadened my understanding of how to be a human in the 20th century.”

Billy Pilgrim is the son of an American barber. He serves as a chaplain’s assistant in World War II, is captured by the Germans, and he survives the largest massacre in European history the fire bombing of Dresden. After the war Billy makes a great deal of money as an optometrist, and on his wedding night he is kidnapped by a flying saucer from the planet Tralfamadore. So begins a modern classic by a master storyteller.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

“This is the first book that I read that elicited such intense emotions that I couldn’t bear to end the book. The story of love and loss, coupled with the underlying message of environmental stewardship, made me fall in love with this book.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God, a luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern black woman in the 1930s whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance, continues to inspire the next generation of students.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“Every time I come back to it, I discover new things about the story, its characters, and its social commentaries. I could spend hours talking about the book’s narrative style, the themes of class and race, or the constructions of femininity and womanhood that Brontë explores – but her greatest triumph is writing this masterpiece with such immense passion and emotion that the reader can’t help but feel immersed in every single page.”

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before. What unfolds is the tale of the intense love between the gypsy foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Catherine, forced to choose between passionate, tortured Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton, surrendered to the expectations of her class. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

“One deeply sentimental essay, On Going Home, still makes me cry each time I read it; it speaks to me as a nomad, as someone who until recently had no permanent sense of home.”

The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains, decades after its first publication, the essential portrait of America–particularly California–in the sixties. It focuses on such subjects as John Wayne and Howard Hughes, growing up a girl in California, ruminating on the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room, and, especially, the essence of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, the heart of the counterculture.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

“In addition to being the most metal-ass shit ever, it has expanded my understanding of the possibilities of the language.”

In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I of England. London was alive with an interest in all things Scottish, and Shakespeare turned to Scottish history for material. He found a spectacle of violence and stories of traitors advised by witches and wizards, echoing James’s belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft.

In depicting a man who murders to become king, Macbeth teases us with huge questions. Is Macbeth tempted by fate, or by his or his wife’s ambition? Why does their success turn to ashes?

Like other plays, Macbeth speaks to each generation. Its story was once seen as that of a hero who commits an evil act and pays an enormous price. Recently, it has been applied to nations that overreach themselves and to modern alienation. The line is blurred between Macbeth’s evil and his opponents’ good, and there are new attitudes toward both witchcraft and gender.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

“It inspired me to study French, become fluent, live abroad, and meet extraordinary and culturally diverse people.”

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean–the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread–Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope–an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

“Because, well, magic.” (Note: if you’d prefer to refrain from supporting J.K. Rowling, please buy used books!)

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley — a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry — and anyone who reads about him — will find unforgettable.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“My love for literature and writing began with this book in high school.”

Mrs Dalloway describes a day in 1923 in the life of an upper-class Londoner, Clarissa Dalloway, as she prepares for a party she is hosting. In lyrical language, Virginia Woolf describes Clarissa, her memories, day-dreams, regrets and fears, to masterfully entwine the past, present and future in what is regarded as one of the great novels of the twentieth century. “The novel’s opening pages are probably the most ecstatic representation of running errands in the Western canon.” (Evan Kindley). The novel is essentially plotless; using the springboard of the mundane preparations for a society party, it travels backwards and forwards through time, drawing the reader into the consciousness of the characters.

Mrs. Dalloway, perhaps Virginia Woolf’s most popular work, and perhaps semiautobiographical, is a book worth reading and rereading.

Open City by Teju Cole

A haunting novel about identity, dislocation, and history, Teju Cole’s Open City is a profound work by an important new author who has much to say about our country and our world.

Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor named Julius wanders, reflecting on his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. He encounters people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey–which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Published in 1864, Notes from Underground is considered the author’s first masterpiece – the book in which he “became” Dostoevsky – and is seen as the source of all his later works. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose acclaimed translations of The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment have become the standard versions in English, now give us a superb new rendering of this early classic. Presented as the fictional apology and confession of the underground man – formerly a minor official of mid-nineteenth-century Russia, whom Dostoevsky leaves nameless, as one critic wrote, “because ‘I’ is all of us” – the novel is divided into two parts: the first, a half-desperate, half-mocking political critique; the second, a powerful, at times absurdly comical account of the man’s breakaway from society and descent “underground.” The book’s extraordinary style – brilliantly violating literary conventions in ways never before attempted – shocked its first readers and still shocks many Russians today.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food–and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

A years-long #1 New York Times bestseller, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and Best Book for Reluctant Readers, and with millions of copies in print, this novel for teen readers (or “wallflowers” of more-advanced age) will make you laugh, cry, and perhaps feel nostalgic for those moments when you, too, tiptoed onto the dance floor of life.

Sphere by Michael Crichton

A classic thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Crichton, Sphere is a bravura demonstration of what he does better than anyone: riveting storytelling that combines frighteningly plausible, cutting edge science and technology with pulse-pounding action and serious chills. The gripping story of a group of American scientists sent to the ocean floor to investigate an alien ship, only to confront a terrifying discovery that defies imagination, Sphere is Crichton prime–truly masterful fiction from the ingenious mind that brought us Prey, State of Fear, and Jurassic Park.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams and Reaching Your Destiny by motivational speaker and author Robin Sharma is an inspiring tale that provides a step-by-step approach to living with greater courage, balance, abundance and joy. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari tells the extraordinary story of Julian Mantle, a lawyer forced to confront the spiritual crisis of his out-of-balance life, and the subsequent wisdom that he gains on a life-changing odyssey that enables him to create a life of passion, purpose and peace.

Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez

In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Diaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams pulls us into Spanish Harlem, where the word is out: Willie Bodega is king. Need college tuition for your daughter? Start-up funds for your fruit stand? Bodega can help. He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty–and a steady income from the drugs he pushes.

Lyrical, inspired, and darkly funny, this powerful debut novel brilliantly evokes the trial of Chino, a smart, promising young man to whom Bodega turns for a favor. Chino is drawn to Bodega’s street-smart idealism, but soon finds himself over his head, navigating an underworld of switchblade tempers, turncoat morality, and murder.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

“Moby-Dick was the first novel I felt rather than just read… There are stunning chapters – about whales and whale blubber, about details of sailing and masts – where Melville is writing for the pure joy of what he knows and loves and the joy of the act of writing – commercialism and publishability be damned. This was a beacon to me. Giving permission to read, enjoy, learn, marvel or be bored and skip ahead.”

‘Command the murderous chalices!…Drink ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow – Death to Moby Dick!’. So Captain Ahab binds his crew to fulfil his obsession – the destruction of the great white whale. Under his lordly but maniacal command the Pequod’s commercial mission is perverted to one of vengeance. To Ahab, the monster that destroyed his body is not a creature, but the symbol of ‘some unknown but still reasoning thing’. Uncowed by natural disasters, ill omens, even death, Ahab urges his ship towards ‘the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale’.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“It felt like Roxane was speaking directly to me when she wrote: “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying–trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself…””

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Our Virtual Pivot

The impact of COVID-19 on student learning and well-being cannot be overstated. In response to the challenges facing our school system, we are:

  • Increasing the time we spend (virtually) in classrooms
  • Donating books directly to students, particularly those who are unable to attend our virtual sessions.

We believe in the power of connecting through storytelling.

In a virtual classroom visit earlier this school year, one student thanked author Jason Reynolds “for acknowledging my presence as a Black girl and reminding me that I’m stronger than I think.”

Diverse stories and role models are especially valuable.

In another session, one student told visiting author Winifred Conkling that “after reading this book I felt empathy. You left me more open to more world issues and that the world is very unfair.”

You can help us continue to empower students through literature by donating $15 to our #GivingTuesday campaign, or by spreading the word. Share one book that has made a difference in your life. With your support, we will make an impact for a whole generation.

Why Diverse Books Matter

An educator we partner with once told us that “Students often feel like they cannot relate to poetry.” This is a feeling that some of us, even as adults, can immediately understand. Sometimes, reading is hard. When we think about the books that we do enjoy reading, the books that we relate to and that might have prompted us to start thinking of ourselves as book-lovers, a key element in many of them is that they allowed us to see a reflection of ourselves.

This is why diverse books matter. It matters to children who don’t see themselves as the protagonist in so many books with White main characters. It also matters to children who are White, and who would benefit from seeing and learning about the true diversity of the world around them.

At PEN/Faulkner, we emphasize the need for students to read culturally relevant books and to hear from authors who can speak to their backgrounds and lived experiences. By connecting writers like Derrick Weston Brown, Kim Johnson, Innosanto Nagara, Mark Oshiro, and Mia García with students, we can help demonstrate that, in the words of our educator partner, “not all poetry is written by dead White men.”

If you believe in our mission of using literature to foster empathy by amplifying diverse voices, then please consider donating to fund our organization’s efforts. You can save the date to participate in our upcoming #GivingTuesday campaign on December 1st, or help us spread the word by sharing one book that has made a difference in your life.

Some of the books we’ve donated this year (and authors we’ve brought into classrooms) include The Resolutions by Mia García, La Borinqueña by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, This Is My America by Kim Johnson, Voces Sin Fronteras by the Latino Youth Leadership Council of LAYC (published by Shout Mouse Press), Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro, Ink Knows No Borders by Patrice Vecchione, Stamped by Jason Reynolds, Oh, the Things We’re For! by Innosanto Nagara, Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, On Our Way to Beautiful by Yolanda Young, The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott, Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith, I Am The Night Sky by the teen artists and writers of Next Wave Muslim Initiative (published by Shout Mouse Press), Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling, and The Magic In Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson.

Tell Us About Your Book!

What was the last book that challenged you, frightened you, made you pause, welcomed you, changed your mind on something, or did all of these things at once?

Books have been our solace, our means of connection, and our starting point for so many important conversations. That is why getting books in the hands of students who might otherwise find it difficult to fill their own bookshelves matters so much.

Tell us, in 2-3 sentences, about a book that has made a difference in your life and what that meant to you.

Share your story on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and tag us at @penfaulkner #MyOneBook. We are so excited to hear and amplify your stories!

Save the Date: Giving Tuesday 2020

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There is still much more work left to do. For PEN/Faulkner, that work involves amplifying diverse voices in literature, fostering empathy through stories and storytelling, and helping every child get access to the resources they need to read, write, and participate in civil society.

We look forward to continuing that vital effort by participating in #GivingTuesday, which falls on December 1st. As part of both a global movement of giving and the official DC region’s campaign, hosted by the Catalogue for Philanthropy, we are asking you to help us achieve our goal of raising $5,000.

If you donate between 9-10am on December 1st, it will help increase our chances of receiving an extra $1,000, awarded by the Catalogue for Philanthropy to the nonprofit with the most unique donors during that time.

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If you want to share about one book that has changed your life, we’d love to hear it! You can learn more about how to do so here.

Our Education Programs

In the last three years, PEN/Faulkner has:

  • Donated 13,958 books to students across all eight wards of the city;
  • Served 11,853 students through inspiring author visits and professional writing instruction; and
  • Worked with more than 170 writers, many of whom are local to the DC area.

We believe that connecting authors with young people builds a culture of inclusive conversation, so we design our education programs specifically to amplify a diverse range of authors who inspire the next generation.

Through our Writers in Schools program, we work with teachers in primarily Title I schools across DC to integrate free books, author visits, and writing instruction into their curriculum.

We also offer Writing Workshops where we bring trained, professional writers into classrooms to support students with developing writing skills. This fall, some of our workshop topics include point of view in writing, using figurative language, and tackling the personal statement.

This year, we’re piloting a new program, Writers in Residence, in which an expert writer will develop an in-depth relationship with students over an entire school year. Each residency is organized around a theme that guides students through learning about the principles of writing in the context of larger social justice issues. This theme also informs the class writing project that students develop over the course of the residency.

Our Together We Read program brings together students from different schools in a book club to engage in dialogue with each other and with authors.

During the summer, we offer Summer Writing Programs to students in DC and beyond that include daily and weekly writing workshops, many with guest authors and editors. Last year, our virtual programming covered topics that ranged from telling one’s own story to examining diversity in publishing.

Finally, four of our five education programs are simultaneously offered as part of our Nuestras Voces initiative, which focuses specifically on Latinx- and Hispanic-centric narratives. Through this initiative, we amplify Latinx and Hispanic-identified writers and their stories and connect them with the students we serve.

If you believe in our mission of helping every child get access to the resources they need to read, write, and participate in civil society, then please consider donating to fund our organization’s efforts. You can donate now here, or save the date to participate in our upcoming #GivingTuesday campaign on December 1st. We appreciate your support.

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2020 PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony

Friday, December 4, 2020, at 7:30 pm EDT

Get your ticket now! 

Join us for this virtual ceremony celebrating Lydia Davis, the 2020 winner of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story!

Awarded annually to writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story is one of the nation’s most significant literary prizes for the short story form. This year, we are celebrating our 2020 winner, Lydia Davis, in a ceremony that will feature a reading as well as an in-depth conversation/Q&A about Ms. Davis’s work. The event will also feature remarks by Janna Malamud Smith, Bernard Malamud’s daughter.

This evening is hosted in partnership with the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University.

This year, PEN/Faulkner has decided to adopt a Pay-What-You-Will model for our public programs to ensure that they remain accessible to all audiences. If you’re able to, please consider making a donation when you claim your ticket so we can continue to provide high quality literary programs that matter to you.

Announcing ESCAPE

We are incredibly excited to announce our next Literary Conversation, ESCAPE, featuring Margaret Atwood, Rion Amilcar Scott, Nisi Shawl, and moderator Morgan Jerkins!

Monday, November 23, 2020, at 7 pm EDT

Get your ticket now!

With everything that has been thrown at us this year, people are looking for ways to forget about the state of reality now more than ever. Literature provides the perfect opportunity to escape into new worlds in an attempt to cope with and understand all that happens in our own.

Don’t miss this riveting Literary Conversation with authors who have built worlds and universes in their speculative fiction to explore the human condition and its impact on our reality.

We are proud to partner with Politics & Prose as our exclusive bookseller for this event. You can find all our featured authors’ books on the Politics & Prose website!

This year, PEN/Faulkner has decided to adopt a Pay-What-You-Will model for our Literary Conversations to ensure that they remain accessible to all audiences. If you’re able to, please consider making a donation when you claim your ticket so we can continue to provide high quality literary programs that matter to you.

Watch Literature on Screen: You

Literature on Screen: You is the third installment of Literature on Screen, a mini-series within PEN/Faulkner’s Literary Conversations program in which we feature authors whose work has been adapted into a film or TV series. Featuring Caroline Kepnes, author of the best-selling book turned hit Netflix series You, in conversation with actor Penn Badgley and moderator Chris Klimek, this event took place on September 23, 2020 at 7 pm EDT.

The transcript for this event is available here.


“What do we want from people, how much do we want them to follow us? And then also we have to understand that we don’t get to make those rules, it’s just not the way humans are built, they’re going to do things we don’t want them to do. Like Joe, being the worst possible version of that.” – Caroline Kepnes

“I think we all identify with [what] Caroline was saying – when we suffer, we tend to overanalyze, you know. In our sadness, our vision is actually clouded. Sometimes we might think it’s… sharper, it’s clearer. But I think actually sadness brings a veil of a kind, and we do become overly analytical. And so, to me, as much as I understand [Joe], I also think, huh, where I understand and identify with him – I have some [self-accounting] to do there.” – Penn Badgley

“To me, [Joe] always considers himself the victim, the one in the right, the only one with a moral compass. But the other part of that logic is that if he’s moral, no one else can be. No one else will ever go through what he’s been through. No one will know how hard it is to be him.” – Caroline Kepnes

“Joe doesn’t exist without white privilege! … I think Joe is too charming in the show, personally. I always wanted to make him creepier… I think that Joe on camera is, to me, the best thing he is, is an allegory for white supremacy in a way. That’s what I got in touch with in season two a lot, personally.” – Penn Badgley

This year, PEN/Faulkner has decided to adopt a Pay-What-You-Will model for our Literary Conversations to ensure that they remain accessible to all audiences. If you’re able to, please consider making a donation so we can continue to provide high quality literary programs that matter to you.

Learn more about our upcoming Literary Conversations here.

You can also pre-order the third book in the Joe Goldberg series, You Love Me, by Caroline Kepnes here.