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The non-profit literary organization PEN USA and WordTheatre presented a benefit brunch for Pen USA featuring performances of excerpts from Banned Works of Literature on Sunday, May 20, 2007 at Aphrodisiac Restaurant in Los Angeles at 11:30 am. The event, which benefited PEN USA’s Freedom to Write programs, honored legendary actor, humanitarian and author Kirk Douglas for defending the freedom of expression. Douglas broke the notorious Hollywood blacklist in 1958, when the star/producer allowed blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to be credited under his real name for the screenplay to Spartacus. Douglas has written nine books including the recently published Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning. Mr. Douglas was present to accept his award.

This year’s impressive lineup of celebrity participants and readers included host Larry Gelbart, along with Academy Award Nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, The Lake House) who read The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif ShafakCatherine Dent (The Shield, 21 Grams) who read Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea NewmanGary Dourdan (CSI, Perfect Stranger) who read Native’s Son by Richard WrightEvan Handler (Sex and the City, Studio 60) who read Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainSarah Clarke (Thirteen, 24) who read Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea NewmanRadha Mitchell (Feast of Love, Finding Neverland) who read July’s People by Nadine GordimerLou Diamond Phillips (Courage Under Fire, Numb3rs, Young Guns) who read Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya and two time Emmy Award Winner Robert Wuhl (‘Arli$$’) who read The Vice-Principal by Houshang Moradi-Kermani.

PEN USA’s Freedom to Write programs assume the noble task of bringing recognition and aid to writers who persevere in the face of oppression and persecution around the world, and guard against restrictions of the First Amendment here at home. By celebrating the universal right to free expression, PEN USA protects those who create and consume literature in the United States and abroad. PEN USA, which represents writers in the western portion of the United States, was founded in 1943 and is now the third largest of the 144 centers of International PEN, the human rights and literary organization representing more than 15,000 professional writers worldwide. For more information on PEN USA and the Forbidden Fruit fundraiser, please visit www.penusa.org.

A list of banned books compiled by the American Library Association can be found here.