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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