This Fall, PEN America is proud to be a part of the 2023 Brooklyn Book Festival, which is taking place on October 1st from 10am – 6pm ET at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza and Columbus Park. The Brooklyn Book Festival is the city’s largest literary festival, convening authors as nearby as Bed-Stuy to across the globe, and remaining free-to-the-public to reflect the city’s dynamic, cross-cultural book readers and literary community. Scroll down to see all our activities for the day, including a panel with authors Casey McQuiston and Cheryl Willis Hudson and a live performance by Grammy-winning musician Joanie Leeds.
PEN America is thrilled to take part in this celebration of the literary community. Be sure to find the Literary Marketplace to grab some swag and chat with staff!
Stop by booth 427 for fun activities, swag, and to chat with our staff about how to fight book bans across the country.
This year’s panel, PEN Presents: Free the Books, will be held at 10am on the Main Stage. In facing the rising threats to the freedoms to read and imagine, PEN America convenes a dialogue with beloved writers on the recent and dramatic rise in the efforts to censor and silence Black and LGBTQ+ perspectives. The New York Times bestselling author Casey McQuiston and independent publisher and children’s author Cheryl Willis Hudson will be in conversation with PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman, Director, Free Expression and Education Programs.
We’re also thrilled to host a special performance by Grammy-winning musician Joanie Leeds, whose new collaborative album, FREADOM, features songs inspired by banned children’s books! Joanie will be performing at PEN America’s booth (#427) at 1pm.
Cheryl Willis Hudson is an award-winning children’s book author and co-founder of Just Us Books, an independent publishing company that focuses on Black-interest books for young people, which she co-founded with her husband Wade. Her published titles include the classic AFRO-BETS ABC Book, Bright Eyes, Brown Skin and her most recent, Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World. She and Wade co-edited the middle grade anthologies We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices and The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth, both published by Crown Books in partnership with Just Us Books. A member of the PEN America’s Children and Young Adult Books Committee, Cheryl’s industry honors include the Madame C. J. Walker Legacy Award and 2019 CBC Diversity Award.
Casey McQuiston is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies, including One Last Stop, I Kissed Shara Wheeler, and Red, White & Royal Blue. Casey’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Bon Appetit. Born and raised in southern Louisiana, Casey now lives in New York City with a poodle mix named Pepper.
Jonathan Friedman, Ph.D., is the Director of Free Expression and Education Programs at PEN America. He oversees research, advocacy, and education related to academic freedom, educational gag orders, book bans, and general free expression in schools, colleges, and universities. An interdisciplinary scholar by training, Friedman has served as lead author on PEN America’s reports, Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools (2022), Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights (2022), Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach (2021), and Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America (2020). He also steered the production of PEN America’sCampus Free Speech Guide (2020). He regularly provides commentary for news media about educational censorship, and has published op-eds for CNN, The Washington Post, The Hill, The Daily Beast, New York Daily News, and Inside Higher Ed.
Grammy-winning musician, Joanie Leeds, is Manhattan-based singer-songwriter boasting a multifaceted career as a nationally acclaimed touring and recording artist, early childhood educator, activist and mom to an eight-year-old daughter. For her original children’s music, she has earned numerous accolades for both songwriting and performance. Notably, her 2020 album, All the Ladies, a powerful testament to female empowerment and gender equality, earned a Grammy award for Best Children’s Album. Joanie’s stage presence has graced renowned venues such as Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, The Kennedy Center, and Wolf Trap and her music has topped the charts on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live. Her recently released children’s album, FREADOM, is a vibrant celebration of diverse literature and the freedom to read starring the multi-talented “Book Band” (Regina Carter, Divinity Roxx, SaulPaul, Oran Etkin and Cheryl B. Engelhardt). Each song is inspired by a different children’s picture book that has been removed from the shelves of libraries and schools in over 30 states nationwide. For more information, visit Joanieleeds.com.