Member Profiles: Aimee Bender & Andrea Labinger



MEMBER PROFILE: Aimee Bender

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
In June 1999, about a year after my first book came out.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
As soon as I found out about an organization devoted to writers, writing, and outreach, I was excited and happy to join.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
When I joined I was particularly drawn to the PEN In The Community program and Freedom to Write Advocacy Network; now, I’m also really appreciating Emerging Voices Fellowship. I’m always so impressed by those writers.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
I have been doing the Author Evenings, which are part of the Emerging Voices Fellowship program, for a number of years now and talking to those writers is always a lift—they’re so bright, interesting, eager-minded, fresh-thinking.

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?
It (the right) should be a given and it’s not; this has always seemed to me to be an extremely worthwhile and meaningful mission.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
Its continuing role in reaching out in L.A. and beyond to give voice to those who may not have an outlet.

In light of the changing ways in which news is being shared, what role, if any, do you think writers and journalists play in disseminating information or encouraging action?
Writers and journalists will always be very important as information needs to be digested and considered so that a reader can then form informed opinions.

What are you reading now?
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and The Celestials by Karen Shepard.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
“I need more than one sentence!” yelled the woman, kicking Hemingway’s grave.


Aimee Bender is the author of five books, including The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and most recently, The Color Master, a NY Times Notable Book of '13. Her short fiction has been published widely and translated into sixteen languages. She teaches creative writing at USC.




MEMBER PROFILE: Andrea Labinger

When did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
According to PEN Center USA records, it was 11 years ago. That sounds right to me.

Why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
As a literary translator, I think it’s important to be part of a community of writers who support one another.

What is most exciting to you about PEN Center USA?
Being part of a community of people who care about the fate of the written word.

What is your favorite memory/story of PEN Center USA or a PEN Center USA event?
My favorite memories involve being recognized as a finalist in PEN Center USA’s 2007 Literary Awards and, more recently, receiving a PEN/Heim Translation Grant. What a thrill!

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?
It means being grateful that I live in a place where I can write without worrying about the midnight knock on the door— or worse—and that I need to be an advocate for those who do not yet enjoy the same privilege.

What do you wish other people knew about PEN Center USA?
That PEN Center USA supports writers and writing of all stripes, including literary translation. That PEN Center USA is more than an arts organization, and that its commitment to human rights worldwide is an essential part of its mission.

In light of the changing ways in which news is being shared, what role, if any, do you think writers and journalists play in disseminating information or encouraging action?
Information can circulate around the world in seconds; groups can be mobilized in hours; public opinion on major issues can be swayed in a matter of days. Journalists and other writers have more power than ever to reshape the world. With that power comes the tremendous responsibility to exercise it ethically and wisely.

What are you reading now?
Daoud Kamel’s The Meursault Investigation.

Tell us a story in one sentence.
On that November evening in 1965, when all five boroughs suddenly went dark, plunging 30 million souls and much of the Northeastern corridor into penumbra, and people clambered up to the rooftops to celebrate their temporary liberation from electricity by the light of a preternaturally shiny moon, my grandmother, having just fiddled with the burner beneath a pot of páprikas csirke, threw her hands into the air and cried, Oy, istenem, now what have I done?

Andrea G. Labinger has published numerous translations of Latin American prose fiction. Her most recent work includes translations of Ángela Pradelli’s Amigas mías (Friends of Mine, Latin American Literary Review Press, 2012); Liliana Heker’s El fin de la historia (The End of the Story, Biblioasis, 2012); and Ana María Shua’s El peso de la tentación (The Weight of Temptation, University of Nebraska Press, 2012). Gesell Dome, her translation of Guillermo Saccomanno’s Cámara Gesell, will be published by Open Letter Books in 2016.


Check out our past Member Profiles here.