14 Literary Organizations That Support Writers Who Resist
In the months since Donald Trump has become president, more and more people have become inspired to join the Resistance — whether that means volunteering, campaigning, donating, making calls, educating themselves and others on the issues, or otherwise. Bustle's 31 Days of Reading Resistance takes a look at the role of literature and writing in the Resistance, both as a source of inspiration and as a tool for action.
It's important to recognize and celebrate the different roles that writers, poets, and literature play in resisting the oppressive, racist, misogynistic, and dictatorial-leaning powers that have been given increased and more mainstream attention in recent months — and their roles are many, diverse, and necessary. 31 Days of Reading Resistance has featured poets that speak out against police violence; books focused on the accelerating dangers of climate change; revolutionary novels written by women; the creative inspirations of powerful women, authors, and readers like Wendy Davis, Kamila Shamsie, Jillian Cantor; and much more. But equally important is recognizing that these writers, artists, and activists aren’t fighting the good fight alone — there are tons of nonprofits, programs, and organizations that support writers who resist, and they’re just as essential to the success of the resistance.
Globally and nationally, these organizations help raise the voices of marginalized and underrepresented communities, advocate for persecuted and prosecuted writers, and do everything they can to ensure that the freedom of expression isn’t enjoyed by just a small demographic of white males living in the western hemisphere, but by a diversity of people living all over the world.
Check out these 14 programs that support writers who resist — and definitely consider giving them a little support of your own, whatever that might look like!
Write Our Democracy, a.k.a.: Writers Resist
Focused on the mobilization of writers and drawing public attention to the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate democracy, Write Our Democracy was founded by a group of radical, resisting writers in the days after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. In the days before, during, and after the inauguration, Write Our Democracy hosted events around the country that promoted social justice, activism, education, and resistance against the current administration and subsequent national divisions. Currently Write Our Democracy is launching a Words Have No Borders campaign, which works, in their words, to: “elevate the narrative surrounding democracy, better educate young future citizens, and mobilize writers who want to put their pens into political practice.”
The first worldwide association of writers, founded in Europe in 1921, PEN International defends global freedom of expression by celebrating literature; advocating for persecuted and prosecuted writers, essayists, novelists, bloggers, and journalists throughout the world; and launching a number of global campaigns, including November’s annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer. The PEN Charter affirms, among other things, that: “in all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion” and that “members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favor of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in one world.”
The largest of the PEN International global centers, PEN America extends PEN International’s mission by championing the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world, uniting writers across diverse backgrounds, and defending the civil liberties that make freedom of expression possible. Their programs include the Prison Writing Program, the Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee — which focuses on topics of diversity and censorship, the World Voices Festival, and more.
In addition to being the leader in LGBT book reviews, author interviews, opinion and news, Lambda Literary is a nonprofit publisher that is dedicated to raising the voices of LGBTQ writers and supporting their creative projects, and one of the largest and most-celebrated LGBTQ literary organizations in the world. Founded in 1989, Lambda Literary facilitates writers’ retreats, writers in the schools program, a literary festival, an annual literary award series, and more.
“We sell and publish weird books by women,” is the first thing you see when you arrive at Emily Books’ website. The indie Coffee House Press imprint publishes, publicizes, and celebrates the work of edgy, transgressive, passionate, often underappreciated, women writers, trans people, and queer people — including Elena Ferrante, Eileen Myles, Samantha Irby, Nell Zink, Melissa Broder, Jenny Zhang, and more — with the goal of lifting up what’s funny, challenging, and provocative in literature, and seeking out works that stand outside traditional genre distinctions.
Founded in 1997, the Richard Hugo House (aka: Hugo House) is the Pacific Northwest's leading literary center, a space that offers writing residencies and craft classes, reading and book launches, workshops and teen programs, and more, all designed to support writers of diverse backgrounds and experiences. They’re committed to nurturing underrepresented voices, and making space for new writers in the larger literary community.
Black Seed Writers Group
Based out of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, The Pilgrim is a literary magazine compiled from the work of the Black Seed Writers Group, an organization of homeless writers living in and around Boston — and since its founding in December 2011, The Pilgrim has featured the work of hundreds of homeless, transitional, and recently housed writers. The Black Seed Writers Group offers writers both a much-valued literary community to belong to, as well as a public space to share their voices and stories.
Developed in 2014 and founded in 2015, Sahar Speaks works to provide national and global publishing opportunities for Afghanistan’s female journalists — offering writers skills training, networking, and publishing opportunities needed to give them a voice in international media, and to share the true stories of Afghan women across the world. Since its founding, Afghan writers participating in Sahar Speaks have been invited to work for The Associated Press, al Jazeera, the New York Times, Norwegian and German newspapers, and more.
Kore Press is all about publishing diverse feminist perspectives, with the goal of provoking and inspiring empathy in readers and the larger community. An innovative print and online literary publishing house and nonprofit press, Kore believes that publishing women is social justice work, and has been doing so since 1993. Founded by Lisa Bowden and Karen Falkenstrom, Kore Press aims to provide a platform for the diverse literary work being produced by women and trans writers.
Girls Write Now
We definitely can't forget about bringing our youngest activist voices to the table too, which is exactly what Girls Write Now strives to do. Based in New York City, Girls Write Now is a nonprofit organization dedicated to mentoring young women and encouraging them to develop their creative writing skills; and program participants come from at-risk communities and under-funded public high schools in New York. Girls Write Now was named one of the top 15 after-school arts programs in the United States by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
The Feminist Press
The Feminist Press at The City University of New York was founded by Florence Howe in 1970 as an educational nonprofit organization designed to advance women's rights and amplify feminist perspectives. They were both central to the publication of second wave feminist titles, as well as the reprinting of feminist classics (think: Zora Neale Hurston, Barbara Ehrenreich and Grace Paley.) Today they publish titles from all over the world, specifically those that focus on feminist issues and gender identity.
Women for Women International
In addition to a seemingly never-ending list of projects that make the world an all-around better place for women, Women for Women International’s literacy programming helps female victims of war, poverty, and injustice learn how to read and write — two skills that are essential for a woman striving to gain agency over her life.
Haymarket Books is a self-described "radical" and "independent" nonprofit book publisher — and they definitely live up to the description. Based in Chicago and a project of the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, Haymarket Books is dedicated to publishing powerful but underrepresented voices of resistance, advocating for books that advance social and economic justice. Their list of must-read authors includes: Rebecca Solnit, Arundhati Roy, Angela Davis, Winona LaDuke, Howard Zinn, and more.
Freedom to Read Foundation
Bonus organization — this one’s for readers: because what’s a writer without her readers, amirite? If you’ve ever participated in Banned Books Week (and I know you have), then you’ve probably heard of the Freedom to Read Foundation. Affiliated with the American Library Association, the Freedom to Read Foundation defends the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by working to ensure that individuals have unrestricted access to books and information and supports libraries in maintaining everyone’s right to the freedom of reading.
Follow along all month long for more Reading Resistance book recommendations.