J.K. Rowling, the real-life wizard behind the “Harry Potter” franchise, has been named as the 2016 recipient of the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service award. PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists) is recognizing the bestselling author as a “fierce opponent of censorship” and an “advocate for women’s and girls rights.”
The prize celebrates “a critically acclaimed author whose work embodies [PEN’s] mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity.”
Those who have read the seven “Harry Potter” books — and/or seen the eight films they inspired — can attest to the fact that Rowling’s work consistently engages with themes relating to media censorship and distortion, as well as gender and class inequality. Rowling, who will make her big-screen writing debut with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” tackles these issues outside of the pages of her novels as well. Rowling set up The Volant Charitable trust, which funds charities and projects concerned with social deprivation and women’s and children’s issues. She also founded Lumos, a non-profit dedicated to children in orphanages and similar welfare institutions.
Rowling told the Guardian she is “deeply honored to receive this award and humbled that [her] work has been recognized as having moral value by an organization I so admire.” She explained that she has ” long been a supporter of PEN, which does invaluable work on behalf of imprisoned writers and in defense of freedom of speech.”
“Through her writing, Rowling engenders imagination, empathy, humour and a love of reading, along the way revealing moral choices that help us understand ourselves,” said Andrew Solomon, author and president of PEN America. “Through their experiences with Rowling both on and off the page, countless children have learned not only the power of speaking their own minds, but also the critical importance of hearing others. A gifted storyteller, fierce opponent of censorship, advocate for women’s and girls’ rights and staunch defender of access to education, Rowling uses all of the tools at her disposal to create a better and more just world for our children.”
Rowling will be presented with the award on May 16 at a gala in New York.
[via The Guardian]