New York is always a city of writers and artists, but this week especially so. Starting today and running through May 12, 200 of them will descend on NYC for the 15th annual PEN World Voices Festival. This year, PEN America will host over 70 events across the city– including panels, poetry slams, and readings that celebrate the literary history of lower Manhattan.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that the renown international literary festival address issues tied to migration, language, and national identity. But, this Lower East Side History Month, it feels especially appropriate for the World Voices Festival to host so many events about immigration, in a neighborhood shaped by immigrant identities.
The much-loved Nuyorican Poets Cafe will host five literary events during the festival, engaging with all sorts of questions around power, immigration, and translation.
Tomorrow, head over to the Nuyo for a discussion about Love in the Time of Tinder with writers including New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi and Sexographies author Gabriela Wiener. On Wednesday, stop by for My Story, My Journey, My Freedom with oral history pioneer Dave Eggers. Then, witness a Japanese and Icelandic Translation Slam on May 9. Head into the weekend with a conversation about Poetry to Power with former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. And round out your Saturday with a literary conversation about DACA at Dreaming Out Loud.
For continued literary fun, head over to Washington Square Park where New York University’s International Houses line the cobblestone Washington Mews. The World Festival events hosted at NYU’s Deutsches Haus, Maison Française, Casa Italiana, and other houses form a micro-festival nicknamed the Literary Mews.
Start off the evening by choosing between Person, Place, and Politics: Rescuing Ourselves from States of Turmoil, Presented with the Guardian and Terrible Truths: Confronting History and Memory (both at 6pm). Then, at 7:30pm, choose either Reinvent and Rediscover: A View from Elsewhere or This Transfronterizo Life, Presented with The Guardian. Each of the events features international authors discussing ideas of place, home, and nationality.
For the most Lower East Side of World Festival events, make sure to carve out time for a visit to the Tenement Museum on Wednesday. From 6:30pm to 9pm, authors Ahmed Naji, Grace Talusan, Sally Wen Mao, Deborah Landau, Shane McCrae, Niviaq Korneliussen, Sharmila Sen, and H.M. Naqvi will read from their work inside restored tenement apartments at the museum. Where else can you hear an Egyptian author read from his novel in the historic home of an Irish immigrant family?
In its fifteenth year, the PEN World Voices Festival is fully engaging with its post-9/11 founding mission: to diversify dialogue between the United States and the rest of the world through literature. International literature on the Lower East Side has never meant more in this year of immigration debate.