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Authors Withdraw from PEN America Awards Over Stance on Gaza Conflict.

Several authors have withdrawn their nominations from the prestigious PEN America literary awards, expressing discontent with the organization's response to the conflict in Gaza. This development emerges as PEN America announced its long lists for various award categories, including the $75,000 Jean Stein Award for the best book and the $10,000 PEN/Hemingway Award for the best first novel.

Pen America
Pen America

Among those withdrawing their nominations are Jean Stein nominee Camonghne Felix, poetry finalist Eugenia Leigh, and short story nominee Ghassan Zeineddine. Felix, known for her memoir "Dyscalculia," stated on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that her decision to decline the nomination was in "solidarity with the ongoing protest of PEN’s continued normalization and denial of genocide."

The controversy stems from PEN's perceived lack of adequate response to Israel's actions in Gaza following a deadly attack by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the kidnapping of 253 others. Critics, including authors Naomi Klein and Lorrie Moore, have accused PEN America of failing to sufficiently condemn the conflict that has reportedly left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead, including writers, academics, and journalists.

An open letter published in March criticized PEN America for not providing substantial support to Palestinians and accused the organization of failing to uphold its mission of promoting peace and equality. The letter highlighted a perceived disparity in PEN's reactions to the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, suggesting that the organization had been more proactive in mobilizing its members against the Russian invasion than in the Gaza conflict.

Despite the backlash, PEN America has defended its actions, noting that it has issued several statements calling for a ceasefire and mourning the destruction in Gaza. The organization has also set up a $100,000 emergency fund to support Palestinian writers. PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel expressed deep sorrow over the "horrific costs of the Israel-Hamas war," acknowledging the impact on the cultural community.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for April 29 in Manhattan, with writer-comedian Jena Friedman as the host. A spokesperson for PEN revealed that nine out of the sixty nominated authors have requested their names be withdrawn from consideration. The organization also confirmed that Esther Allen declined the PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for translation and plans to announce a new winner soon.

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