Authoring Advocacy: Bearing Witness in an Era of Mass Incarceration

What is the responsibility of writers to confront our era of mass incarceration, and how do we bear witness without assuming voyeuristic or exploitative perspectives? Join us for a reading featuring 2018 PEN America Writing For Justice Fellows Justin Rovillos Monsonand Reginald Dwayne Betts, and Asian American Writers Workshop's The Witness Program writers Roshon AbrahamChristine Olivares, & Sarah Wang. A closing conversation will explore the ethics, challenges and necessity of writing about mass incarceration from a variety of perspectives and lived experiences.

PEN America’s Writing for Justice Fellowship commissions writers—emerging or established—to create written works of lasting merit that illuminate critical issues related to mass incarceration and catalyze public debate. The Fellowship aims to harness the power of writers and writing in bearing witness to the societal consequences of mass incarceration by capturing and sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, their families, communities, and the wider impact of the criminal justice system. This event will also serve as a warm welcome to the new 2019-2020 Writing For Justice Fellow cohort!

The Witness Program is a new program of the Asian American Writers Workshop that empowers writers of color to witness and write about mass incarceration. It began in the spring of 2019 and supports four creative writers, as part of our ongoing initiative A World Without Cages. Each participant visits several sites of American incarceration and detention, meets with individuals who are directly affected, and takes part in a pen-pal correspondence with an incarcerated writer. Their creative work will appear on The Margins, our online magazine of culture and ideas.