Ursula K. Le Guin Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226264-LeGuin.jpgUrsula K. Le Guin Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, on October 21, 1929. Her mother, Theodora Kroeber, had a graduate degree in psychology, and Le Guin’s father, Alfred Kroeber, was a well-known anthropologist. Le Guin and her three older brothers, Karl, Theodore, and Clifford, grew up in a household that placed strong emphasis on reading.

Le Guin’s father taught at the University of California at Berkeley, where the family spent the academic year. With the arrival of summer, they would move to Kishamish, their forty-acre estate in the Napa Valley. Le Guin spent much time exploring this area with her brothers, which is perhaps why so many of her novels include journeys by foot. Summer guests at Kishamish included intellectual celebrities such as Robert Oppenheimer as well as anthropology scholars. Le Guin’s exposure to anthropology dates from before she could read, as her father often told his children stories about the local Native Americans.

Le Guin’s reading was not confined to anthropology, however, for she read all genres available to her, ranging from the romantic works of Lord Dunsany to the Taoist writings of the legendary seventh century Chinese figure Laozi, whom she read while still in her teens. In 1951, she completed a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, in French and Italian, with an emphasis on Renaissance literature, at Harvard University’s Radcliffe College. She completed her M.A. at Columbia University in 1952, and then began a doctoral program at Columbia. In Paris, in December, 1953, she ended doctoral study and married Charles Le Guin, a history professor whom she had met on shipboard, while traveling to France for a year of Fulbright-supported study.

The end of Le Guin’s doctoral aspirations proved to be the beginning of her career as a writer. Her mother had begun a writing career in middle-age; her Ishi in Two Worlds (1961) appeared a year after the death of Le Guin’s father. Le Guin began writing much younger, producing her first fantasy story at age nine. Her first science-fiction story was rejected by a magazine when she was eleven, and she waited ten years before submitting another. With her marriage,...

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Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Ursula K. Le Guin’s best writings, notably The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and the Earthsea books, have become widely accepted modern classics, and Le Guin’s work is known by readers who, otherwise, read little fantasy or science fiction. Widely studied in high schools as well colleges and universities, her books are regularly the subject of doctoral dissertations. The Lathe of Heaven (1971) has been adapted to film twice, in 1979 and 2001. The first three books of the Earthsea series were adapted to film in 2005. Literary critic Harold Bloom says that her work is among the best by modern writers: “Le Guin is the overwhelming contemporary instance of a superbly imaginative creator and major stylist who chose . . . ’fantasy and science fiction.’”

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Ursula Kroeber was born on October 21, 1929, in Berkeley, California, the daughter of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and author Theodora Kroeber. She received her B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1951 and her M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. While on a Fulbright Fellowship in Paris in 1953, she married Charles A. Le Guin. They had three children: daughters Elisabeth and Caroline and a son, Theodore. She taught French at Mercer University and the University of Idaho before settling in Portland, Oregon, in 1959. In 1962, she began publishing fantasy and science fiction. In addition to writing, she was active in the Democratic Party, in writing workshops, and in Tai Chi Chuan, a Chinese form of exercise.

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ursula K. Le Guin was born Ursula Kroeber, into a close, intellectual family in Berkeley, California, on October 21, 1929. Her father, Alfred Kroeber, was an anthropologist distinguished for his studies of native California tribes and was curator of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology of the University of California. Her mother, Theodora Krackaw Kroeber, was a respected writer with an advanced degree in psychology and a special affinity for Native American subjects and sensibilities. It was Le Guin’s father who befriended Ishi, the last survivor of the native Californian Yahi people, and it was her mother who wrote Ishi in Two Worlds (1961), an anthropological study of Ishi’s life and times, as well as the simpler popularnarrative Ishi, Last of His Tribe (1964). The interest that Le Guin’s fiction shows in communication across great barriers of culture, language, gender, and ideology is a natural offshoot of her parents’ lifelong passion for understanding worldviews other than the dominant Euro-American competitive materialism. Her use of songs, stories, folktales, maps, and depictions of material culture to flesh out fictional worlds is also congruent with her parents’ professional focus.

The Kroeber family seems to have enjoyed an enviable degree of closeness, reasonable financial security, and an abundance of intellectual stimulation. During the academic year, they lived in a large, airy house in Berkeley. Their summers were spent in their Napa Valley home, Kishamish. To these forty acres flocked writers, scholars, graduate students, relatives, and American Indians.

Living among so many people rich in knowledge and curiosity, and having access to an almost unlimited supply of books, Le Guin began writing and reading quite young. She did not discover science fiction, however, until she was twelve. When she found, while reading Lord Dunsany one day, that people were still creating myths, Le Guin felt liberated, for this discovery validated her own creative efforts.


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Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201235-Leguin.jpgUrsula K. Le Guin Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (leh GWIHN) has been a major figure in the elevation of science fiction and fantasy from minor literature to the mainstream of American letters. She is the daughter of the respected anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber and Theodora Kroeber, author of Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America (1961). Her childhood was marked by the intellectual and imaginative stimulation of her home life, alternating between the university atmosphere of Berkeley, California, and summers in the Napa Valley, where she came to know and love the country landscape.

Though she began writing as a child, she did not publish until after she ended her formal education, married, and became a parent. Le Guin completed her B.A. at Radcliffe College in 1951, earned her M.A. at Columbia University in 1952, and then began work toward a Ph.D. in French. While on a Fulbright Fellowship in France, she met and married Charles A. Le Guin. After the couple settled in Portland, Oregon, she began publishing fiction, raising her three children by day and writing at night. Her first story, “An die Musik,” appeared in 1961.

In 1966 Le Guin published her first science-fiction novel, Rocannon’s World. This was followed by the increasingly powerful novels in the Hainish series that were to contribute to her considerable reputation. While Planet of Exile and City of Illusions were well received, The Left Hand of Darkness established Le Guin’s reputation in science fiction when it won the prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards. The last major novel in this series, The Dispossessed, won the Nebula, Hugo, and Jupiter awards for 1974.

At the same time that she was gaining a reputation among science-fiction enthusiasts, Le Guin was establishing herself as a formidable writer of fantasy fiction for young readers. The...

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Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born October 21, 1929, in Berkeley, California. Her parents were the noted anthropologist, Alfred L. Kroeber and...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ursula K. Le Guin was born in a fascinating Berkeley household on October 21, 1929. Her parents, Alfred and Theodora Kroeber, were...

(The entire section is 583 words.)

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of science fiction's most popular writers. She is also one of the genre's most respected. Through her novels, which...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ursula K. Le Guin was born on October 21, 1929, in Berkeley, California. Her parents were the famed anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber and...

(The entire section is 1104 words.)

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of science fiction's most popular writers. She is also one of the genre's most respected. Through her novels, which...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Novels for Students)

Ursula K. Le Guin Published by Gale Cengage

Born in 1929 Ursula K. Le Guin has always enjoyed reading, especially poetry and fiction dealing with other times and places. Her parents were both professionals, her father an anthropology professor and her mother a children's literature author, and they both encouraged her literary aspirations. She says that she was lucky to be born in 1929 instead of 1939 because of J. R. R. Tolkien's influence. In her introduction to her critical exploration of science fiction. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction, Le Guin muses, "what would have happened if I had...first read Tolkien in my teens, instead of my twenties. That achievement might have overwhelmed me." Tolkien's influence is most evident in Always Coming Home in its portrayal of a future possibility as an already established fact and presenting all aspects of this future culture in a scientific, textbook format. She began submitting stories for publication at age eleven and although she was not published that early, the real rejection slip from a real magazine only drove her desire for publication and fame.

Le Guin, in numerous interviews, never claims to be a science fiction/fantasy writer, but simply a novelist whose publishers market her work as science fiction/fantasy. When asked what kind of prize she would like to win, either a National Book Award or a Hugo, Le Guin said Nobel. She does not see a marked difference between writing fiction and writing science fiction. Both her academic training, including graduate work in French and Italian Medieval literature, and her desire to be a "name," have helped Le Guin carve out a unique position for herself in the second half of the twentieth century. She is one of the first women to reach national and academic acclaim in the genre of science fiction/fantasy. Beginning with her early "fairy tales in space suits" in the 1950s, Le Guin has produced over eighty novels and collections of short stories, storming the walls of both traditional science fiction readership and "serious" literary scholarship in an attempt to bring her version of feminist Utopian ideology to a wider audience. Her success has inspired and encouraged the careers of other women science fiction writers like Amber Zimmer Bradley, Anne Macaffery, and Sheri Tepper.

Ursula K. Le Guin Biography (Novels for Students)

Ursula K. LeGuin Published by Gale Cengage

Ursula K. Le Guin was born on October 29, 1929, in Berkeley, California, where she grew up. Her father was Alfred Kroeber, an internationally-known anthropologist whose influence may have nurtured her understanding of cultural artifacts and traditional myths and legends. Her mother, Theodora Kracaw Kroeber Quinn, was a writer of several biographies and children's books. Le Guin attended Radcliffe College, where she received her B.A., and Columbia University, where she received a master's degree in romance literatures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. She married Charles A. Le Guin, a French historian, in 1953. Her first short stories appeared in science fiction magazines as early as 1962, and she published three novels, including the first one in her acclaimed Earthsea trilogy, in the three years between 1966 and 1968. It was The Left Hand of Darkness, though, that made her famous, winning the major science fiction awards: in 1969 the book won the Nebula Award, and in 1970 it earned her a Hugo Award. She has defined herself as a feminist, but not a radical feminist: she has spoken out for women's rights in life and, as in The Left Hand of Darkness, she has studied the roles of the genders in her science fiction, but most of her protagonists have been males, especially in her early books. One of the earliest lessons she learned in regard to self-identity and gender came in the same year that this book was published, when Playboy magazine published her story "Nine Lives." They asked her to publish it under the name "U. K. Le Guin": she did it, but she went on to resent having had to hide who she was. In her career Le Guin has published over eighty short stories, two collections of essays, ten books for children, seven volumes of poetry, and sixteen novels. She has written a screenplay for The Left Hand of Darkness that has not yet been produced.