Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (October 21, 1929–January 22, 2018) was an American author of speculative fiction. She published The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War and the protests against it. Unlike that of many of her contemporaries, her work was not just "space opera" in which people had adventures facilitated by exotic technologies but was instead an attempt to think through social and cultural history, engaging many ideas of psychologists such as Jung and social anthropology. She engages in wide critique of notions of gender and spirituality, influenced especially by eastern religions. Her background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Renaissance French and Italian literature from Radcliffe College and her writing is marked by its social critique and intelligence.
In a certain way, the portrait of Genly Ai makes an important point about American colonialism in Vietnam. The cultural background of the novel portrays Gethen as following a sort of eastern religion, just as Vietnam traditionally followed Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The struggles of Genly Ai to build alliances mirror the ways the great European powers entered into Vietnam and involved the country in proxy wars which devastated its economical and social structures. America's blindness to Vietnamese culture is echoed in the relationship of Ekumen to Gethen and particularly the way that foreign powers fueled internal divisions in Vietnamese culture to gain power in proxy wars with other European and Asian powers.