About Ursula K. Le Guin


Black and white profile image of Ursula K. Le Guin with shadow of herself in backgroundUrsula Kroeber was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California, where she grew up. Her parents were the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and the writer Theodora Kroeber, author of Ishi. She went to Radcliffe College and did graduate work at Columbia University. She married Charles A. Le Guin, a historian, in Paris in 1953; they have lived in Portland, Oregon, since 1958, and have three children and four grandchildren.

Ursula K. Le Guin writes both poetry and prose, mainly in the genres of realistic fiction, science fiction and fantasy. She’s written short stories, novels, young children’s books, books for young adults, screenplays, essays, translation, verbal texts for musicians, and voicetexts. Few American writers have done work of such high quality in so many forms.

Le Guin’s Writing

Le Guin arrived with a bang on the topsy-turvy literary scene of the late 1960s, elevating science fiction and fantasy to new levels of political sophistication and artistry. Her work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality, and ethnography. In her writing, she explores various dimensions of identity and of broader cultural and social structures, drawing on sociology, anthropology, and psychology.

Three of Le Guin’s books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and among the many honors and awards her writing has received are the National Book Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. In 2014 she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Le Guin’s work has influenced a spectrum of notable science fiction and fantasy writers.

Le Guin leads an intensely private life, with sporadic forays into political activism and steady participation in the literary community of her city. Having taught writing workshops from Vermont to Australia, she is now retired from teaching. She limits her public appearances mostly to the West Coast.

For a full biographical sketch visit www.ursulakleguin.com


Featured works

Most of Le Guin’s major titles have remained continuously in print, some for over 40 years. For an in-depth bibliography visit www.ursulakleguin.com.

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Tales from Earthsea

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Tales of Earthsea

The six Books of Earthsea are Le Guin's best known fantasy works. They have sold millions of copies in America and England, and have been translated into 16 languages.

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The Left Hand of Darkness

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The Left Hand of Darkness

Le Guin's first major work of science fiction, considered epoch-making in the field for its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity.

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The Dispossessed

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The Dispossessed

An Anarchist novel, The Dispossessed redefined the scope and style of utopian fiction.

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Always Coming Home

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Always Coming Home

Along with The Dispossessed, Le Guin's novel Always Coming Home helped to redefine the scope and style of utopian fiction.

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Tales from Earthsea

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Searoad

Realistic stories of a small Oregon beach town show Le Guin's permanent sympathy with the ordinary griefs of ordinary people.

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The Left Hand of Darkness

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Catwings

Among Le Guin's books for children, the Catwings series has become a particular favorite.

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Why is science fiction, or any fiction, important now?


We populate an age of global disasters, when technological advancement has surpassed the predictions of early sc-fi writers — yet the basic understanding of how to live together harmoniously seems light-years away. More than ever, we need to perform the kinds of thought experiments that Le Guin pioneered, to ask how we should behave as our technologies transform us beyond the wildest dreams of our grandparents. It is essential that we take seriously the task of imagining — and endlessly reimagining — our world. To survive, we must question basic assumptions about how to share resources and responsibilities, how to end global warfare, and how to protect our planet’s ecology. Perhaps more than any writer of her generation, Le Guin has determinedly examined possibilities for how we might achieve such a balance. Her courage in confronting this great creative task makes Le Guin one of our most relevant living writers.