Virtual Toast #2: Ursula K. Le Guin

Let’s take a moment to celebrate a writer who will seriously make you question everything you thought you knew. 

left hand of darkness

Seriously though, this book. Prepare yourself.


A writer of novels, short stories, and children’s books who is perhaps best known for her works of science fiction and fantasy. She is also a great lover of cats.


Le Guin was born in 1929 to an anthropologist father and a mother who wrote the famous biographies of Ishi, the last member of the Yahi tribe of California. Le Guin published her first science fiction novels in the 60s, when the sci-fi world was dominated by likes of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and other writers who, though talented visionaries themselves, embodied the status quo of white, male protagonists and white, male authors. Then Le Guin published The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969 and blew everyone away.

Le Guin’s worlds are futuristic and fully realized. They offer chilling insights on the contemporary world and her prose is often minimal and sparse, but always evocative. She is one of those writers who is deft at multiple genres and is so prolific that, at times, it doesn’t seem possible.


Le Guin is eminently toast-able. It is almost impossible to know where to begin, but perhaps I will simply leave you with an excerpt from the speech she gave last year at the National Book Awards after being awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”


Many of Le Guin’s works involve a blending of binaries – of male and female, of anarchist and capitalist. She is truly a master at exploring what it is that makes us human, even if those elements are often in profound opposition. She is also not afraid to take risks. Therefore, the Dark and Stormy seems the most appropriate cocktail with which to toast Ms. Le Guin.

To freedom, and to Ursula K. Le Guin.


xox J

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