Just Press Play

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting millions of people’s lives in unprecedented ways, PEN America’s World Voices Festival launches a new playlist series with songs selected by some of our favorite authors from around the world.

Every week, Just Press Play brings the soundtracks of poets and novelists’ writing lives into homes and offices everywhere. From the balconies of Milan to the speakers of our smartphones, these playlists remind us all that music, like books, can connect humanity from a distance.

This week, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of We Cast a Shadow, a finalist for the 2020 PEN/Open Book Award, shares a soundtrack to his life: 

Maurice Carlos Ruffin“My whole life has a soundtrack. I play music when I jog, drive, and write. I’ve written entire short stories to a single song played on repeat. And I have playlists for most of my activities. During the pandemic, I’ve been leaning heavily on my ‘Happy List,’ which, as the title suggests are songs that make me smile. Some, I only discovered just recently, like that one by a fellow New Orleans native, Dawn Richard. On the other hand, I associate ‘Stepping Out’ with one of my earliest memories: lying in the back seat of my parents’ car circa 1983 and feeling absolutely safe and loved.”

Check out his playlist on Spotify and YouTube today, and grab We Cast a Shadow on Bookshop or Amazon.

Maurice’s Favorite: “Stepping Out” from Joe Jackson

About Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of We Cast a Shadow, which was published by One World, a Random House imprint. The novel is a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction and the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award for a novel-in-progress. His work has appeared in the Oxford American, Garden & Gun, and the Kenyon Review. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of creative writing at Louisiana State University and the 2020–2021 John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss.

Join us next week for a playlist from 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Natalie Diaz, author of the poetry collections When My Brother Was an Aztec and most recently, Postcolonial Love Poem