About Ursula K. Le Guin

Photo Credit: Richard Jensen

Photo Credit: Richard Jensen

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (1929-2018) was a celebrated and beloved author of 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, 12 children’s books, six volumes of poetry and four of translation. The breadth and imagination of her work earned her six Nebulas, nine Hugos, and SFWA’s Grand Master, along with the PEN/Malamud and many other awards. In 2014 she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2016 joined the short list of authors to be published in their lifetimes by the Library of America.

Ursula Kroeber was born in 1929 and grew up in Berkeley, California. Her parents were anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber, author of Ishi. She attended Radcliffe College and did graduate work at Columbia University. She married historian Charles A. Le Guin, in Paris in 1953; they lived in Portland, Oregon, beginning in 1958, and had three children and four grandchildren. Le Guin died peacefully in her home in January, 2018.

Few American writers have done work of such high quality in so many forms. Her oeuvre comprises 23 novels, 12 volumes of short stories and novellas, 11 volumes of poetry, 13 children’s books, eight collections of essays, and four volumes of translation. Le Guin’s major titles have been translated into 42 languages and have remained in print, often for over half a century. Her fantasy novel A Wizard of Earthsea, the first in a related group of six books and one short story, has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Le Guin’s first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, is considered groundbreaking for its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity. Her novels The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home redefine the scope and style of utopian fiction. Le Guin’s poetry drew increasing critical and reader interest in the later part of her life; her final collection of poems, So Far So Good, was published shortly after her death.

Among many honors her writing received are a National Book Award, nine Hugo Awards, six Nebula Awards, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the PEN/Malamud Award, and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2000, she was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and in 2016 she joined the short list of authors to be published in their lifetimes by the Library of America. Three of Le Guin’s books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Critical reception of Le Guin’s work rewarded her rigor and willingness to take risks with forms considered by some to be outside of literary fiction. Harold Bloom includes her among his list of classic American writers. Grace Paley, Carolyn Kizer, Gary Snyder, and John Updike praised her work, and many critical and academic studies of Le Guin’s work have been published. The documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, directed by Arwen Curry, was released theatrically in 2018, and a biography of Le Guin’s life and work, by Julie Phillips, is forthcoming.

"If you want excess and risk and intelligence, try Le Guin."
— The San Francisco Chronicle

"She wields her pen with a moral and psychological sophistication rarely seen... and while science fiction techniques often buttress her stories they rarely take them over. What she really does is write fables: splendidly intricate and hugely imaginative tales about such mundane concerns as life, death, love, and sex."
— Newsweek

"Idiosyncratic and convincing, Le Guin’s characters have a long afterlife."
— Publishers Weekly

"Eloquent, elegant... insightful, funny, sharp... and nearly always provocative."
— The Washington Post

"Her worlds are haunting psychological visions molded with firm artistry."
— The Library Journal

"Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own."
— The Boston Globe

"Her characters are complex and haunting, and her writing is remarkable for its sinewy grace."
— Time

"I realy liked Catwings alot and I hope you will write more about them. I drew a picture of a Catwing."
— Josh B., Age 8, Detroit