MEMBER PROFILES: Ann Louise Bardach & Tomas Mournian



MEMBER PROFILE: Ann Louise Bardach

When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
Hmmm…20 years ago?

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
The community, the mentoring, and honoring our colleagues.

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?
Write what you want—wherever you are—on any damn thing.

Writers are using their digital media platforms to engage with readers and other writers on serious topics. Can you give an example of a writer or organization that is doing this well?
POLITICO Magazine, where I write! I also like the comments at POLITICO, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
Family memoir, but there’s still time.

What is your favorite quote?
“It is the Past’s supreme italic / Makes the Present mean” —E. Dickinson

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
Hannah Arendt?

What are you working on now?
Coverage on US-Cuba relations and the election.

Ann Louise Bardach has written for virtually all the major media in the U.S. and the U.K.: The New York Times, The Washington Post, POLITICO, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Slate, The Guardian, the Financial Times, The New Republic, Newsweek/The Daily Beast as Writer-at-Large, and Vanity Fair, where she was a reporter for a decade.

She is the author of
Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington and Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana, as well as the editor of The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro and Cuba: A Travelers Literary Companion. She served on The Brookings Institution's Cuba Study Project. Her book Cuba Confidential was a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism and the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Nonfiction, and named one of the Ten Best Books of 2002 by the Los Angeles Times. In 1995, she won the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Journalism for her reporting on Mexico in Vanity Fair magazine; the year previous, her Vanity Fair coverage of the impact of Islamic fundamentalism in the West was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award for Journalism.

An intrepid reporter known for securing hard-to-get admissions from Fidel Castro to E. Howard Hunt, she has interviewed several dozen U.S. and world leaders and personalities. She is frequently seen and heard on television and radio and has appeared on
60 Minutes, the Today Show, Good Morning America, Dateline, CNN, Nightline, The O’Reilly Factor, Charlie Rose, National Public Radio, and PRI's Marketplace. She created and wrote the Global Buzz column for Newsweek International and the Interrogation column for Slate.




MEMBER PROFILE: Tomas Mournian

When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
In 2007. The BEA was on its way to Los Angeles, and I was determined to present an event featuring visiting LGBTQ people—authors and publishing figures—in conversation at a private home. PEN Center USA was the logical organization to approach.

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
Advocacy for the writer who doesn’t live under the protections of a political system relatively committed to free speech and freedom of expression. Although the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to build and maintain massive instruments of surveillance are extremely troubling, compared to other countries we possess degrees of freedom to engage in critical thinking and write about the political economy of our government. This gives us a position not so much of moral authority, but visibility, which PEN Center USA leverages. On a participatory level, I’ve really enjoyed judging for PEN Center USA’s Literary Awards and working with fellow authors, Juanita Havill, Benjamin Saenz, Tom Carson, and Dana Goodyear.

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?
Despite the seemingly global move towards a pictorial society, “The Word” remains resonant in ways that often imperil those who speak and write. My commitment to social change is leavened by an awareness that “The Word” also embodies a spiritual element that is physical (to speak one must also breathe). Without those freedoms, we are truly doomed. But PEN Center USA occupies this interesting position insofar as it counters those forces that would seek to constrain, muffle, and suffocate speech.

Writers are using their digital media platforms to engage with readers and other writers on serious topics. Can you give an example of a writer or organization that is doing this well?
This is an interesting question insofar as singularity (“one person/organization”) doesn’t, for me, address the fact that social media engages a hive mind—Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram—vis-à-vis new platforms and modalities that the tech industry delivers to us seemingly everyday. For me, it’s the conversations about social justice that are happening throughout these various eco-systems which I view as “successful”—#BlackLivesMatter forcing us to confront our country’s horrific legacy of white supremacy and #Occupy laying the groundwork for economic equity.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
The Golden Bowl by Henry James.

What is your favorite quote?
William James asks his uncle: “What is a life for?” and is told: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
I like a party so there will be more than one guest: Truman Capote, Proust, Virginia Woolf, Marilyn Monroe, Louise Brooks, Fellini and Bruce Benderson, Alfred Chester, Homero, Chloe Aridjis, Dorothy Dean, Renata Adler, and Roxane Gay.

What are you working on now?
A true crime/roman à clef set in early ‘80s L.A., and a memoir about being institutionalized for being gay as a teenager and subject to reparative therapy.

Tomas Mournian is the author of the novel, Hidden (Kensington, 2011) which was completed at Yaddo in 2009 when he held the Eli Cantor Chair, and is included on the ALA's 2012 Rainbow List (GLBTQ Books for Children & Teens) and 2012 Over The Rainbow List (from the GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association). The novel was based on original reporting (“Hiding Out”, a San Francisco Bay Guardian cover story), that detailed the lives of LGBTQ youth who escaped from reparative therapy bootcamps into an underground network of safe houses. Mournian's work for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Marie Claire, and Los Angeles Magazine has been recognized with multiple GLAAD nominations as well as the NCCD Pass, and Peninsula & East Bay Press Club Awards. George Michael hired Mournian to produce a short film based on “Hiding Out”. The piece was shown during Michael’s performance at JFK during Equality Rocks and later developed into an MTV series.


Check out our past Member Profiles here.