What if you weren’t allowed to read Alice in Wonderland? Or All Quiet on the Western Front? Or Animal Farm? All of these classic pieces of literature have been banned at one point in time by governments because it was believed they contained destructive material. It is hard to imagine that Alice in Wonderland contains anything destructive but the censor General of Hunan, China believed that the anthropomorphized animals in Lewis Carroll’s book would teach children to regard humans and animals on the same level and, therefore, beginning in 1931, the book was banned. PEN Center USA is an organization dedicated to shining the spotlight on the issue of such censorship and, on May 5th, will bring the entertainment community together at Forbidden Fruit to support freedom of expression all over the world.
Founded in 1943, PEN Center USA is one of two centers in the United States and the third largest in the world. With a membership made up of over 600 writers, poets, playwrights, essayists and novelists as well as television writers, screenwriters and journalists, the goal of PEN Center USA is to create a world in which freedom of expression is guaranteed for all writers, both domestically and internationally. Some of the ways the organization does this is by advocating for the release of imprisoned writers and protecting writers who suffer from political persecution and censorship.
There's a long history of attempts to ban some of the world's most remarkable pieces of literature. In order to raise awareness of this type of censorship, Forbidden Fruit was created to present readings from some of the banned books on the list compiled by the American Library Association, which can be found at . Several corporate sponsors are also participating in this event to demonstrate their support of “the right to write” including the law firm of Greenberg Glusker, Red Bull and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
Forbidden Fruit will be held on May 5th from 4:30-6:30pm at a private estate in Los Angeles where members of the Hollywood and Los Angeles literary communities will read aloud from banned books with 100% of the proceeds going directly to benefit PEN Center USA. This event coincides with the 60th anniversary of the non-profit. Laura Bickford, a PEN Center USA board member and the producer of “Traffic” and “Arbitrage” will host the event along with writer/producer Peter Blake (“The Practice” and “House, M.D.”). Bickford notes that, "Banned books have ranged from the political to the provocative, from the sexual to the surprisingly benign,” and she goes on to say, “[but] what they have in common is the controversy surrounding them." Matt Galsor, Chair of the Entertainment Group at Greenberg Glusker, one of the event’s corporate sponsors, elaborates by saying that, “Freedom of expression is the foundation of all other freedoms [and] it’s morally imperative for all of us, especially those in the entertainment community, to stand firmly and uncompromisingly against any assault on it by any government anywhere in the world.” Galsor, sums up the mission of PEN Center USA by stating simply, “Banning books is banning freedom” and, by raising awareness to the censorship that still occurs in the world today, PEN Center USA is hopeful that future generations will never again be prevented from reading the work of any writer.
Tickets for Forbidden Fruit are $275 for VIP tickets, which includes preferred special seating and $125 for general tickets. Once tickets are purchased online at http://ForbiddenFruitMay5.eventbrite.com, the address of the location will be emailed.