Notable Oregonians: Ursula Le Guin - Writer
Ursula Le Guin is the daughter of anthropologist A.L. Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber. She graduated from Radcliffe College with a B.A. in 1951 and received and M.A. from Columbia University the next year. Le Guin developed into an Oregon writer best known for science fiction and fantasy tales with particular focus on character development and language. Anthropology influenced her science-fiction stories, which often feature highly detailed descriptions of alien societies.
Her first three novels, Rocannon's World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), and City of Illusions (1967), introduced beings from the planet Hain, who established human life on habitable planets, including Earth. She added The Telling to the series in 2000. Her Earthsea series includes A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (1990), Tales from Earthsea (2001), and The Other Wind (2001). The series was written for children but Le Guin's skillful writing includes perceptions that have attracted a large adult readership. She also wrote a series of books about cats with wings; the series includes Catwings Return and Jane on Her Own, both published in 1999.
Among Le Guin's most philosophically significant novels are The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969), about a race of androgynous people who may become either male or female; The Dispossessed (1974), in which two neighboring worlds are home to antithetical societies, one capitalist, the other anarchic, both of which stifle freedom in particular ways; The Word for World Is Forest (1972), a parable of the destruction of indigenous peoples set on a planet colonized by Earth; and Always Coming Home (1985), concerning the Kesh, survivors of nuclear war in California. This work includes poetry, prose, legends, autobiography, and a tape recording of Kesh music.
Le Guin has also written fiction and many essays on fantasy fiction, feminist issues, writing, and other topics. Some of these were collected in The Language of the Night (1979), Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989), and Steering the Craft (1998). Le Guin's 2008 novel Lavinia is based on the princess of Laurentum, a minor character in Vergil's epic poem the Aeneid. Her 2010 book of poems and images from Steens Mountain Country in eastern Oregon is entitled Out Here.
Since 1968 Le Guin has received numerous honorary degrees, literary honors, and awards. She won the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and was honored by The Washington Center for the Book for her distinguished body of work with the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for in 2006. Le Guin was the 2014 recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a lifetime achievement award by the National Book Foundation. Previous recipients include Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Norman Mailer and Toni Morrison.
Le Guin lives in Portland.