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Ursula K. Le Guin was born Ursula Kroeber in 1929 in Berkeley, California. The daughter of distinguished intellectuals, Le Guin earned degrees from Radcliffe College (BA, 1951) and Columbia University (MA in Romance Literature, 1952). She then went on to pursue a PhD in Paris on a Fulbright Scholarship, where she would meet her future husband, professor of history Charles Le Guin. After moving to Portland, Oregon, with her family in 1958, Le Guin began to focus on writing. Le Guin’s earliest works were science fiction novels, the genre Le Guin would become best known for. Over the course of her life, Le Guin wrote several series of science fiction novels that are notable for their extensive and meticulous world-building. Her first three novels, Rocannon’s World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), and City of Illusions (1967) were the first of Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle stories that she would continue to produce throughout her life. The Hainish Cycle is a loosely connected series of stories that imagine a universe in which the humans of the planet Hain have colonized many other planets, including Earth (Terra). Arguably Le Guin’s most famous work, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) is another story in the Hainish Cycle and is notable for its exploration of gender and gender roles in an alien society.
Le Guin’s works often probe deep philosophical questions regarding gender, colonization, technology, and language, usually through fantasy and science fiction. However, Le Guin was an exceptional and prolific poet as well. Her poetry collections include Incredible Good Fortune (2006), Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014, and Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems (2012). She also translated several works, including the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Le Guin was honored again and again throughout her career, receiving a National Book Award, seven Hugo Awards, and six Nebula Awards. She was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000. Le Guin died in 2018 at the age of 88.