On November 2nd, Sarah Sentilles was awarded the 2018 PEN America Award for Creative Nonfiction for her brilliant book DRAW YOUR WEAPONS. This year’s Litfest Gala was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles to honor “those who embody PEN America’s mission to celebrate, champion, and defend freedom of expression.” And on that note, we’d like to share an excerpt from Sarah’s exceptionally moving acceptance remarks:
“The world is on fire, and the flames of racism and sexism and fascism and environmental destruction and war are signaling us: it’s time to make more art. And by “art” I mean paintings and I mean poems and I mean gardens and songs and sculptures.
When I say out loud that making art is the most urgent thing we can do right now, people say, “You can’t be serious.” But I am serious. Art gives me hope, and this hope is not naïve. It’s not romantic or small or abstract. It’s concrete: glue and paint, scissors and tape, words and drawings, book pages and ink and gouache and oil and canvas and sentence after sentence after sentence. It’s the certain knowledge that it’s possible to make something new.
My training as a theologian and an activist and a feminist has taught me it’s possible to imagine a world other than the version peddled to you by people in power. And my training as an artist has taught me it’s possible to make that world. For I can see it; it’s just and it’s beautiful and it’s life-giving for the most vulnerable and precarious among us, for those who have been shut out and shut up and not believed, for the un-grieved and the untended, for the trees and the beasts and the winged ones and the rivers and the mountains, for the missing and the terrified and the suffering.
The world is made, and it can be unmade and remade. We are all artists here and the muscles of our visionary minds are growing stronger and stronger. With every word, every piece of clay, every brushstroke, every stitch, we create that imagined world – and we choose to live there now.
Can you feel it spinning into being? Can you hear its song? Will you answer its call?”