The PEN American Center has announced that author J. K. Rowling has been named as the recipient of the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award “for the extraordinary inspiration her books have provided to generations of readers and writers worldwide.”
Of the award, PEN President Andrew Solomon wrote: “Through her writing, Rowling engenders imagination, empathy, humor, and a love of reading, along the way revealing moral choices that help us understand ourselves. Through their experiences with Rowling both on and off the page, countless children have learned not only the power of speaking their own minds, but the critical importance of hearing others. A gifted storyteller, fierce opponent of censorship, advocate for women’s and girls’ rights, and staunch defender of access to education, Rowling uses all of the tools at her disposal to create a better and more just world for our children.”
Ms. Rowling has established two charitable foundations specifically cited by PEN: Volant, which works to alleviate poverty and social deprivation, especially among women and children, as well as researching treatments for multiple sclerosis, and Lumos, which helps institutionalized children return to family life. When contacted by the Associated Press, Ms. Rowling responded, “I’m deeply honored to receive this award and humbled that my work has been recognized as having moral value by an organization I so admire.”
The PEN American Center also announced that Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Group, has been named its 2016 Publisher Honoree for championing “the power of the unrestrained word.” Mr. Pietsch not only led the charge against Amazon in the commodification of books and authors by standing up to the online behemoth’s strong-arm tactics and forcing the negotiation of a more author friendly contract, but he also, along with several other publishers, championed an informal pledge to combat censorship of translated books in China. Directly, he has worked as an editor for David Foster Wallace, James Patterson, Walter Mosely, Donna Tartt, and Michael Connelly, among others. The PEN American Center website cites that Mr. Pietsch has “contributed vocally to the conversation about publishers’ roles in the changing landscape for writers, publishers, booksellers, and readers.”
The PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers under the PEN International banner, whose purpose is “to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere; to emphasize the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for their view.”
The awards, along with the yet-to-be-announced PEN Freedom to Write Award and the PEN/James and Toni C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, will be awarded at a gala event on May 16 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.