Ursula K. Le Guin

How are you related to Ursula K. Le Guin?

Connect to the World Family Tree to find out

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Ursula Le Guin (Kroeber)

Birthplace: Berkeley, Alameda County, California, United States
Death: January 22, 2018 (88)
Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Alfred Louis Kroeber and Theodora Kroeber
Wife of Private
Mother of Private; Private and Private
Sister of Karl Kroeber
Half sister of Private and Private

Managed by: Louise Mae Kurshan
Last Updated:

About Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (born October 21, 1929) is an American author. She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, and short stories, most notably in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. First published in the 1960s, her works explore Taoist, anarchist, ethnographic, feminist, psychological and sociological themes.

Le Guin was born and raised in Berkeley, California, the daughter of anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber. In 1901 Le Guin's father earned the first Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States from Columbia University and went on to found the second department, at the University of California, Berkeley. Theodora Kroeber's biography of her husband, Alfred Kroeber: A Personal Configuration, is a good source for Le Guin's early years and for the biographical elements in her late works, especially her interest in social anthropology.

Le Guin received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) from Radcliffe College in 1951, and M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. She later studied in France, where she met her husband, historian Charles Le Guin. They were married in 1953.

She became interested in literature when she was very young. At the age of eleven she submitted her first story to the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was rejected. Her earliest writings, some of which she adapted to include in Orsinian Tales and Malafrena, were non-fantastic stories of imaginary countries. Searching for a publishable way to express her interests, she returned to her early interest in science fiction and began to be published regularly in the early 1960s. She received wide recognition for her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.

In later years, Le Guin did work in film and audio. She contributed to The Lathe of Heaven, a 1979 PBS Film based on her novel of the same name. In 1985, she collaborated with avant-garde composer David Bedford on the libretto of Rigel 9, a space opera.

In December 2009, Le Guin resigned from the Authors Guild in protest over its endorsement of Google's book digitization project. "You decided to deal with the devil," she wrote in her resignation letter. "There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle."

Le Guin has lived in Portland, Oregon, since 1958. She has three children and four grandchildren.

Le Guin has received five Hugo awards and six Nebula awards, and was awarded the Gandalf Grand Master award in 1979 and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award in 2003. She has received nineteen Locus Awards for her fiction, more than any other author. Her novel The Farthest Shore won the National Book Award for Children's Books in 1973.

Le Guin was the Professional Guest of Honor at the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia. She received the Library of Congress Living Legends award in the "Writers and Artists" category in April 2000 for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage. The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. In 2004, Le Guin was the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children's May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret Edwards Award. She was honored by The Washington Center for the Book for her distinguished body of work with the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for Writers on October 18, 2006.

In 2002, Le Guin received the PEN/Malamud Award for "excellence in a body of short fiction." At their 2009 convention, the Freedom From Religion Foundation awarded the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award to Le Guin. The FFRF describes the award as "celebrating 'plain speaking' on the shortcomings of religion by public figures."

Much of Le Guin's science fiction places a strong emphasis on the social sciences, including sociology and anthropology, thus placing it in the subcategory commonly known as soft science fiction. Le Guin has objected to this classification of her writing, expressing her distaste for the divisiveness of the term and its implication of what constitutes valid science fiction.

A distinguishing characteristic of Le Guin's work is her deliberate treatment of race. The majority of Le Guin's main characters are people of color, a choice made to reflect the non-white majority of humans, and one to which she attributes the frequent lack of character illustrations on her book covers. Her writing often makes use of alien cultures to convey a message about human culture in general. An example is the exploration of sexual identity through an androgynous race in The Left Hand of Darkness. Such themes can place her work in the category of feminist science fiction, but not necessarily so. Her works are also often concerned with ecological issues.

In her writing, Le Guin makes use of the ordinary actions and transactions of everyday life. For example, in 'Tehanu' it is central to the story that the main characters are concerned with the everyday business of looking after animals, tending gardens and doing domestic chores. While she has often used otherworldly perspectives to explore political and cultural themes, she has also written fiction set much closer to home; many of her short stories are set in our world in the present or near future.

Several of Le Guin's science fiction works, including her novels The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, belong to her Hainish Cycle, which details a future, galactic civilization loosely connected by an organizational body known as the Ekumen. Many of these works deal with the consequences of contact between different worlds and cultures. The Ekumen serves as a framework in which to stage these interactions.[citation needed] For example, the novels The Left Hand of Darkness and The Telling deal with the consequences of the arrival of Ekumen envoys (known as "mobiles") on remote planets and the culture shock that ensues.

Unlike those in much mainstream science fiction, none of the civilizations Le Guin depicts possess reliable faster-than-light travel, with the exception of unmanned FTL monitors and bombers. Instead, Le Guin created the ansible, a device that allows instantaneous communication up to 120 light years. The term and concept have been subsequently borrowed by several other well-known authors.

Few of Le Guin's major works have been adapted for film or television. Her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven has been adapted twice. First, in 1980 by thirteen/WNET New York, with her own participation, and again in 2002 by the A&E Network. In a 2008 interview, Le Guin said that she considers the 1980 adaptation as "the only good adaptation to film" of her work to date.

In the early 1980s animator and director Hayao Miyazaki asked permission to create an animated adaptation of Earthsea. However, Le Guin, who was unfamiliar with his work and anime in general, turned down the offer. Several years later, after seeing My Neighbour Totoro, she reconsidered her refusal, believing that if anyone should be allowed to direct an Earthsea film, it should be Hayao Miyazaki. The third and fourth Earthsea books were used as the basis of the 2005 animated film Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記 Gedo Senki?). The film, however, was directed by Miyazaki's son, Goro, rather than Hayao Miyazaki himself, which came as a disappointment to Le Guin. Le Guin has expressed mixed feelings towards Tales from Earthsea (ゲド戦記 Gedo Senki?): while by and large positive about the aesthetic of the film, she took issue with its moral delivery and plot execution.

In 2004 the Sci Fi Channel adapted the first two books of the Earthsea trilogy as the miniseries Legend of Earthsea. Le Guin was highly critical of the adaptation, calling it a "far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned", and objecting to the whitewashing of characters as well as the way she was "cut out of the process".

In the 1980s, the CBC Radio anthology program 'Vanishing Point' adapted 'The Dispossessed' into a series of six 30 minute episodes and 'The Word for World Is Forest' as a series of three 30 minute episodes.

view all

Ursula K. Le Guin's Timeline

October 21, 1929
Berkeley, Alameda County, California, United States
January 22, 2018
Age 88
Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, United States