Last night, PEN American Center elected Andrew Solomon as the organization’s new President of the Board of Trustees at its Annual General Members’ Meeting.
Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture, and psychology, and a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University. His newest book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (2012) won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction and more than twenty other national awards.
“This is an urgent time for issues of free expression, and a critical time for PEN,” said Solomon. “In the wake of Charlie Hebdo, revelations about surveillance in the United States, international assaults on open dialogue for gay people, and restrictions on press and Internet in many countries worldwide, our mission could not be more clear: free speech is under siege and its defenders cannot rest. PEN has expanded dramatically under the inspired presidency of Peter Godwin and the brilliant leadership of executive director Suzanne Nossel. It is better placed than ever before to remind the world that when discourse is curtailed, there can be no other liberty. I am proud to step in as president of this increasingly crucial organization as it strives to construct a nobler, more just world.”
As the new PEN president, Solomon takes over from journalist and award-winning non-fiction writer Peter Godwin, who led the Board during a three-year period of organizational expansion with budget growth of over 40% in the last two years alone. Enabled by its membership of 4,000 writers, journalists, and literary professionals, PEN has taken its place as a leader on issues like NSA surveillance, the worsening environment for free expression in China, and protections for digital freedom worldwide. The organization’s expanded schedule of public programming in the last year, on topics ranging from Net Neutrality to feminist poetry, has cemented its position at the intersection of literature and human rights.
“PEN’s Board is unique in that it is always chaired by a leading writer and comprised of a mix of philanthropists, activists, as well as authors for whom writing is not just a passion but also a living,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “At a moment when free expression is being tested in French magazines, Silicon Valley boardrooms, the halls of the FCC, and the networks powering the Chinese internet, we are thrilled to have someone of Andrew’s stature and conscience to help lead our defense of principles that are under attack in ways both open and violent as well as quietly insidious.”
PEN officers and trustees represent a formidable “Who’s Who” of the literary and philanthropic worlds, including John Troubh of Troubh Partners LLC as Executive Vice-President and Treasurer and author Annette Tapert as Vice-President, both re-elected for a second term. Also joining PEN’s board of current and returning Trustees this year are journalist-activist Masha Gessen, writer-historian Barbara Goldsmith, poets Tom Healy and Paul Muldoon, publisher Michael Pietsch, children’s book author Fatima Shaik, writer-philanthropist Laura Sillerman, and literary translator Alex Zucker. A full list of PEN’s 2015 Board of Trustees is available at www.pen.org/current-trustees