World Voices Festival in white on a background of colored books


May 4 – May 9

Join more than 150 writers and artists representing over 50 nationalities in New York City and Los Angeles for the 2020 PEN World Voices Festival: These Truths.

In an era when the agreed factual basis of our daily news is constantly undermined, there has never been a greater need for us to hear the deeper truths afforded by literature.

In 60+ events in venues across New York City, America’s premier international literary festival will gather nonfiction and fiction writers, thinkers, translators, and poets to engage with contested histories and memory, to challenge the fabrications served to us on an almost daily basis, and to celebrate the beauty and power of storytelling.

World Voices Festival events take place in New York May 4-9 and in Los Angeles May 2-6.

Featured Events

[CANCELED] Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, and Jia Tolentino with Rebecca Traister

Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, and Jia Tolentino talk feminism, literary activism, social media mania, and the future of women’s liberation in a world where misogyny is resurging. They speak to New York magazine writer Rebecca Traister.
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[CANCELED] Freedom Finds a Rhythm: Ben Okri, with Yacouba Sissoko on Kora

Ben Okri (The Freedom Artist) gives a powerful reading set to live music by the talented West African kora player Yacouba Sissoko. Okri’s words tell us about the dangers of manipulating national myths to fit present circumstances and the effects of power corrupting narratives of national history at large. Hosted by Anderson Tepper.
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[CANCELED] Radical Poetry: Danez Smith and Jamila Woods

Danez Smith is joined in performance and conversation by Jamila Woods, the poet and recording artist, to talk about the potential of their art to celebrate race, the body, and identity politics, offering a message of self-love and healing justice.
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[CANCELED] Jenny Slate Surprises Us

The actress and comedian Jenny Slate talks to Vulture’s Hunter Harris about how writing helped her get to know herself better and many of the little truths she discovered about herself in the process—about overcoming stage fright, embracing vulnerability, and more, in her first wild, irreverent, unapologetic, and nearly indescribable autobiographical work.
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[CANCELED] The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture: Nikole Hannah-Jones and the 1619 Project

With the 1619 Project, New York Times staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones revolutionized the version of American history that most of us learned in school. Join us for this hallmark World Voices Festival event as she makes the vital connection between the “freedom to write” and these truths.
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[CANCELED] The Last Archive with Jill Lepore

Who killed truth? Jill Lepore explores this mystery on her new podcast The Last Archive, and shows us how the elemental unit of knowledge in the West has changed: from mystery, to facts, to numbers and, now, to data. She talks to former editor-in-chief of Slate, Jacob Weisberg.
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[CANCELED] Jeanette Winterson

Critically acclaimed English novelist Jeanette Winterson entertains and confronts—on the page, and in person— with the “gleefully Gothic” Frankissstein, a twenty-first-century cyber-romance that both reimagines Mary Shelley’s eighteenth-century tale and asks us to confront the new quandaries of artificial intelligence, cryogenics, and love as a construct utterly disconnected from human beings. This event has been...
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[CANCELED] Words and Music by Zadie Smith, Tara Westover, Suleika Jaouad, and Jon Batiste

This year’s Festival closes with an exuberant musical performance featuring Zadie Smith, Tara Westover, Suleika Jaouad, and Jon Batiste. Besides discovering our most famous writers’ hidden talents, the audience will also listen in on an intimate conversation between the performers about creativity, art, and inspiration, ending with a stirring New Orleans-style “Love Riot."
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The live events of the 2020 World Voices Festival have been canceled due to concerns about the safety of participants and audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early May, we launched the 2020 digital World Voices Festival at This ongoing digital version of the Festival includes a suite of podcasts, videos, interviews, and musical playlists, with live events and other features to be rolled out over the coming weeks. We hope this digital content brings you joy during a time of uncertainty.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (@PENWorldVoices) for updates about future PEN World Voices Festival programming.