The PEN Gala authors’ event for 2016, to be held in New York on 16 May, will feature among the awardees none other than J.K. Rowling, who will receive PEN America’s Literary Service Award.
- Electric Literature, 25 January 2016 – Melissa Ragsdale, ‘J.K. Rowling to Receive Literary Service Award from PEN’
This should serve as a reminder that the Harry Potter books are more than a mere commercial or entertainment phenomenon: they are a vehicle for values such as solidarity, self-belief and anti-discrimination, and they have been subject before now to official disapproval and censorship, and for PEN, with its well-known commitment to freedom of expression, to confer an award on her is serious business.
Many will remember that last year’s PEN Gala was a serious matter indeed, with 204 PEN members dissociating themselves from one of the co-recipients of PEN’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award 2015, namely the Kalashnikov-scarred French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Rowling will not actually receive the freedom of expression award, but her commitment to freedom of the word forms part of the background to her participation in the gala. She told Associated Press: “I’m deeply honoured to receive this award and humbled that my work has been recognised as having moral value by an organizsation I so admire. I’ve long been a supporter of PEN, which does invaluable work on behalf of imprisoned writers and in defence of freedom of speech”.
The PEN president, Andrew Solomon, stated: “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”.
See also: The Wall Street Journal, 25 January 2016 – “JK Rowling’s Latest Honor: PEN Award for Literary Service” –