MEMBER PROFILE: Ramona Ausubel

When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I joined PEN Center USA in 2013 when I became an Emerging Voices mentor.

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
I love that the organization supports freedom of speech around the world while also seeking out and amplifying new voices in Los Angeles.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
Nothing seems more important to me. I care about the facts and I can get these from newspapers and magazines, but I also care about human stories and experiences, and the only way we’ll ever have attempts at the truth is if writers are safe and protected.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
The way I like to think about literature is as a big, collective attempt to capture what it is to be human—a task that no one person could ever even begin to manage—so I love that the books that matter to me were created by other people. I love that I can feel something written a hundred years ago in a different country by a person who never knew I’d exist and feel it profoundly and get to think about it over my own lifetime. I love that someone else made that.

What is your favorite quote?
“Follow your weird.”–Jim Shepard

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
If I found Flannery O’Connor or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Leo Tolstoy on my front porch, I certainly wouldn’t turn them away. But here’s the great thing: I get to have dinner with them all the time. They performed this magic trick in which the stories they made are never not with me.

What are you working on now?
My new novel, Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, just came out, and now I’m working on the finishing touches on a collection of stories about people far away from home all over the world.

Ramona Ausubel’s new novel, Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, was published in June 2016 from Riverhead Books. She is also the author of No One is Here Except All of Us, winner of the PEN Center USA 2013 Literary Award for Fiction, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and a Finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Her collection of stories, A Guide to Being Born, was a New York Times Notable Book. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, One Story, Ploughshares, The Oxford American, and The Best American Fantasy. She is a faculty member of the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Check out our past Member Profiles here.