What is the value of free expression? In repressive societies, its price is often starkly evident. For those of us who live in more open societies, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize when free speech is at risk—or even that it can be threatened at all.
For A.M. Homes, an American novelist known for her controversial subject matter and exploration of hidden social and political tensions, writers play an essential role in keeping a society open. When we spoke with her recently at the Open Society Foundations, she said that writers are “not only the documentarians and the framers of history, they also give voice to what is not otherwise being said. They say the things we are afraid to say.”
At the PEN American Center, a grantee of the Open Society Foundations, Homes chairs the Writers’ Emergency Fund, which provides financial assistance to writers and editors facing financial crises. She serves on the committee for the World Voices Festival of International Literature, an annual event showcasing the work and ideas of writers from around the globe.
“Free expression is not just a global political issue,” said Homes. “It is also a very personal issue: What can I say? What should I say? What are things that should go unsaid? What are the things we're afraid to say?”
For more of our conversation with A.M. Homes, view the video above.