The child of distinguished anthropologists, Ursula K. Le Guin grew up in an environment that nurtured her intellectual curiosity. Her family lived in California and their summers were spent in Napa Valley where she was able to wander around the vast land. Her father studied Native American Culture which contributed to her mother’s renowned biography about Ishi, the last surviving man of a group of Native American people indigenous of Northern California after which their land was invaded. Le Guin’s personal connection to her natural environment and her parents influence later contributed to her writing career emphasizing many environmental, cultural anthropological, and feminist themes.
Le Guin had a lifelong interest in Taoism, a philosophy that grew from an observance of the natural world, and a religion that believes in cosmic balance. Le Guin’s works often emphasize themes of balance and the importance of interconnectedness across species, genders, and race. This specifically relates to Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest as she represents the forest as a space balanced between lightness and darkness.
In reference to one of her collections of short fiction, Le Guin explained, “Misusing the world, misusing other people, these are permanent problems. Slavery is not a current problem in the United States, but the results of slavery and the mind-set that slavery left us with are. Somehow that was the metaphor I needed. [Freedom] is something I have to write about. What does it mean to be a slave, to be a slave owner? How do you get free? How do you be free? It’s not something someone can give you.” I found this interesting relating to The World for World is lost and how she writes the end of the book for the Athsheans. Learning violence and having to adapt to the world differently due to being oppressed is a very sad fate. Like she states, misusing the world and other peopleare permanent problems but hopefully her writing and other activists can contribute to understanding humanity in beneficial ways.
Walker, Charlotte Zoe. “Ursula K. Le Guin (21 October 1929-).” Twentieth-Century American Nature Writers: Prose, edited by Roger Thompson and J. Scott Bryson, vol. 275, Gale, 2003, pp. 155-165. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 275.
Jameson, Sara. “Ursula K. Le Guin: a galaxy of books and laurels.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 242, no. 39, 25 Sept. 1995, p. 32+.