Hundreds of American writers gathered on the steps of the New York public library on Sunday to form a literary protest against Trump’s inauguration. The ‘Writers Resist: Louder Together for Free Expression’ demonstration was organised by PEN America, an organisation that works to fight censorship as well as promotes the circulation of literature and expression. PEN stated that “[d]uring his presidential campaign, his statements and actions called into question his commitment to constitutional principles, including the freedom of expression. Of specific concern were his threats and insults directed toward journalists, arbitrary limitations on media access and comments in support of potential legal reforms that would weaken First Amendment protections.”
The event featured readings from an impressive host of prominent writers such as Jeffery Eugenedes, Colum McCann and former poet laureates Robert Pinsky and Rita Dove. After the readings, protesters were led by PEN America leaders to Trump Tower to present a “pledge to defend the First Amendment,” which has reportedly gained over 110,000 signatures, to a member of Trump’s team. During the event, President of PEN America Andrew Solomon said to the crowd, “just as chairman Mao and Joseph Stalin started by going after the intellectuals, against those whose words who might form an opposition to them, so Trump has gone across us. We are ground zero in his fight for total power, and that is why, as we at PEN have asserted repeatedly, and as Erin Belieu has helped gather artists to comment on, free speech is first among equals when we look at what is being violated by this new regime.”
Obama’s secret habit
On Monday the New York Times published an interview with Barack Obama in which he discusses the impact that reading and writing has had on his life and his character. Chief book critic for the New York Times Michiko Kakutani says that “Like Lincoln, Mr. Obama taught himself how to write, and for him, too, words became a way to define himself, and to communicate his ideas and ideals to the world.” Obama published a memoir in 1995 entitled Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, in which he “recalls how reading was a crucial tool in sorting out what he believed, dating back to his teenage years, when he immersed himself in works by Baldwin, Ellison, Hughes, Wright, DuBois and Malcolm X in an effort “to raise myself to be a black man in America.” It is revealed that Obama used to write short stories, “working on them after he came home from work and drawing upon the stories of the people he met,” and also plans to work on his memoirs after he has left office.
Abrahams passes away
South African-born Jamaican novelist Peter Abrahams has died at the age of 97. Abrahams was a powerful voice, always striving to communicate to the world the intricacies of the black experience and the degradation of apartheid. His works were consistently acclaimed; his 1957 novel A Wreath for Udomo was as controversial as it was moving and thoroughly inspiring, being heralded by the Wilson Library Bulletin as being Abrahams’ “most effective contribution so far to world understanding of the racial problems of Africa,” and his 2000 autobiography The Black Experience in the 20th Century: An Autobiography and Meditation was considered “enthralling and fascinating” by the publication Research in African Literatures. He moved to Jamaica at the age of 20 due to being commissioned by the British Government to write a book entitled Jamaica: An Island Mosaic, subsequently making the island his home for the remainder of his life. His work was prolific and ranged from novels to journalism and radio commentary, with his last book being published in 200 published piece being a letter to the editor of Jamaican publication The Gleaner the day before news of his death broke on Wednesday.