At Star-Studded 20th Anniversary Gala, Words Without Borders Celebrates Two Decades of Championing International Writers
Words Without Borders, the trailblazing literary organization, will celebrate twenty years of promoting international literature at a gala on October 25 at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. The event, hosted by acclaimed writers and translators, will highlight the continued urgency of WWB’s mission to build literary bridges across borders. A virtual version of the event will be held on November 2.
“Literature remains a vital connective tissue through which we can experience our shared humanity,” said WWB’s executive director and publisher, Karen M. Phillips. “But it can also provide solace, inspire us, and allow us to reimagine what is possible at times of crisis. And through the art of literary translation, we can transcend both linguistic and geographic borders.”
Founded in 2003 by three enterprising editors–Alane Salierno Mason, Samantha Schnee, and Dedi Felman—WWB has brought thousands of international authors into English translation and provided them with exposure to millions of readers worldwide. Today, the organization’s archive features work by more than 4,600 writers translated from 139 languages. WWB has a track record of publishing authors who have gone on to become international sensations, and it counts nine Nobel laureates among its contributors, including Olga Tokarczuk and Jon Fosse. A sustained focus on marginalized voices and underrepresented literatures—including recent features on Afghan women writers, Sámi authors, and writing from Indigenous languages such as Guaraní and Mapudungun—has driven WWB’s editorial vision. In 2018, the organization received the inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize.
Over its history, WWB has worked to expand the audience for international literature through partnerships, free public literary programs, and an innovative education program, WWB Campus. Launched in 2017, WWB Campus offers free access to global stories and curricular resources specifically designed for classroom use, facilitates classroom visits by international authors and translators, and provides professional support for educators. To date, it has reached nearly 50,000 students and educators in the United States and worldwide.
Since its founding, WWB has advocated for the field of literary translation and provided opportunities and visibility to translators and publishers. The Ottaway Award, established in 2013, recognizes individuals who have taken extraordinary steps to advance international literature in English translation. Past winners include Daniel Hahn, Naveen Kishore, Edith Grossman, and Barbara Epler. The new Momentum Grant, founded in 2023, is awarded to an emerging translator working on a book-length translation. WWB’s paid fellowship program provides training and support to two early-career individuals each year.
WWB’s twentieth anniversary gala on Wednesday offers an occasion to celebrate these achievements. Hosted by Merve Emre and chaired by Maria B. Campbell, the event will highlight several WWB contributors through bilingual readings. A special fundraising appeal will raise support for the continued expansion of WWB’s education program. The evening’s special guests include the award-winning poet Ilya Kaminsky, who will serve as honorary chair; Puerto Rican writer and activist Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro; translator and author Poupeh Missaghi; and novelist Laila Lalami. Guests will be seated with literary table hosts including Emily Wilson, Maaza Mengiste, Tom Perrotta, and Jeremy Tiang. The Globe Trot after-party, which draws a younger audience, will feature 2023 National Book Award finalist Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Catherine Lacey, Soje, Vanessa Chan, Raven Leilani, and Daniel Saldaña París. This year’s gala sponsors include Apple Books, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Maria B. Campbell Associates, Irwin & Hsuan, and others.
Looking ahead to its next decade, WWB will seek to scale up its global impact by expanding its readership across the globe, developing a regional literary network, and launching a mobility fund to support more international connections throughout the literary world. Its education program, WWB Campus, will continue to be a core focus of its US programming, reaching more students with literature that provides both a mirror to their own heritage and a vital window on the world.
“It’s an exhilarating time to be working with translated literature,” Phillips said. “As we look to the future, we’ll be building on our solid foundation as a digital magazine and education program to grow into a truly global literary arts organization, offering a wider and deeper platform to both the writers and translators we publish, and the readers and students we serve.”
To purchase tickets to the 20th Anniversary Words Without Borders Gala, Globe Trot After-Party, or Virtual Gala, or to learn more about these events, please visit wordswithoutborders.org/events
Contact: Anna Claire Weber
Organization Name: Words Without Borders
Email Address: email@example.com
Website Address: www.wordswithoutborders.org
Twitter and Instagram: @wwborders