Thank you, Ursula

Today, a hero of mine died.

Me: a depressed young undergrad with her nose constantly in a book

A revelation: discovery of Ursula K. Le Guin’s work in the musty university library stacks

I fell head-first into Le Guin’s worlds, thought-provoking, adventurous places peopled by characters with whom I could identify. Quite a relief after all the Heinlein I’d previously ingested, I can tell you.

photo by Marion Wood Kolisch

Le Guin has inspired me ever since, with her tenacity and acerbic wit. Her stories saved me, at various points in my life. Her prose taught me. The gratitude I feel welling up is difficult to put into words. It’s a sensation pretty much like the one I felt when in 2010 I had the opportunity to briefly meet her. Words completely failed, and and I could only muster,┬átrembling and sweating, “Your work has meant a lot to me, thank you.”

I’m not exactly the fangirl type, but I have been so moved by this writer’s work, so admiring of the writer herself, I wanted to name my daughter after her (but I had a son). Until quite recently, I considered changing my own name, after one of her characters (but I’m not). In case it isn’t obvious: I REALLY appreciate her work. I know the stories weren’t written just for me, but sometimes, it felt a lot like they were.

The deep compassion of her work, the succinct loveliness of her prose, the leaps of imagination! The playful experimentation. It pains me to think there are people out there, women especially, who haven’t read her. If that’s you, I humbly offer the┬álist below, works most impactful and memorable to me as a reader and a writer (I may return to this post and add descriptions later). Le Guin also wrote poetry, critical essays on literature and a lively blog.

EDIT: I’m linking where non-pirated sources are known and available, and you can read excerpts on Le Guin’s website of several stories I mention below.


Mountain Ways


“Coming of Age in Karhide”

The Day Before the Revolution

Novellas (a form for which she had a fondness)

“Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight”

“Old Music and the Slave Women”

“Paradises Lost”


Always Coming Home

The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia


The Word for World is Forest

The Tombs of Atuan


A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be