PEN America cancels 2024 literary awards as authors protest Gaza war response

PEN America has cancelled its annual awards ceremony just days before it was scheduled, per This follows a mass withdrawal of nominated authors in protest of PEN’s handling of the recent war in Gaza.

Nearly half of the 61 nominated authors, including finalists for the coveted $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Award, pulled their books from consideration. This boycott stemmed from accusations that PEN, an organisation dedicated to free expression, did not adequately support Palestinian writers and journalists during the conflict.

Criticism intensified throughout the war, with prominent authors like Naomi Klein and Lorrie Moore publicly denouncing PEN’s lack of “coordinated support” for Palestinians. They felt PEN’s actions didn’t reflect its mission to defend freedom of expression and promote global peace and equality.

PEN America countered that they condemned civilian casualties, advocated for a ceasefire, and offered emergency funding for Palestinian writers. However, critics argued the relief fund was insufficient and their ceasefire stance came too late.

(c) Canva

Facing mounting pressure, PEN America announced a comprehensive review of its actions related to the conflict over the past decade. Additionally, the estate of Jean Stein, who funded the Stein award, redirected the prize money to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, honoring Stein’s commitment to Palestinian rights.

This cancellation is one of many within the arts and culture world affected by the Gaza conflict. Similar protests have derailed events like the Berlinale Film Festival and the Venice Biennale.

The future of PEN America’s role in supporting writers during international conflicts remains uncertain. With a major award ceremony scrapped and leadership promising a significant review, it’s clear the organisation is at a crossroads.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date