2021 PEN Gala to Honor Imprisoned Iranian Writers
The 2021 PEN America Literary Gala, which will take place in person on October 5 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, will recognize imprisoned Iranian writers and free expression advocates Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi with the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, highlighting how the pandemic has exacerbated the plight of persecuted writers.
Abtin is a poet, screenwriter, and filmmaker whose books and films have been banned in Iran. Bajan is a novelist and journalist known for his writing in prominent newspapers and publications in Iran. And Khandan Mahabadi is an author, literary critic, and popular culture researcher known for his short fiction collection The Solitaries. All three have been centrally involved in the anti-censorship group Iranian Writers Association, and are serving a combined 15 and a half years in prison due to their involvement.
The PEN America Literary Gala will be hosted by Awkwafina, and will also honor Emmy and Peabody Award–winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, and cultural critic Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Robert A. Iger, executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company and chairman of its board of directors. Jodie Foster and Wole Soyinka will present Gates with the 2021 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will salute Iger as the Gala's Corporate Honoree.
The proceeds from this event will go to PEN America’s programming and advocacy work.