I Wanted to Name My Daughter Ursula

A Salute to Ursula K. Le Guin

Author Ursula K. Le Guin passed away at age 88 in Portland, Oregon, this week. I saw the news and there was an instant rewind to my pre-teen years and the Weiser Public Library.

That's where I stumbled upon what's commonly called the Earthsea Trilogy by Le Guin. I couldn't read those incredible stories fast enough. 

Then I read Left Hand of Darkness, which Le Guin referred to later as a 'thought experiment." It explored thoughts that had never crossed my mind growing up in a small, rural Idaho town. The story is a jumble of gender and gender identity. What if we could change genders? What if we had no gender and that was normal? Mind blown.

Author Neil Gaiman, another favorite author of mine, described his brain-on-Le Guin when presenting the National Book Award's Lifetime Achievement to Le Guin in 2014

While the books mentioned so far are thick with commentary on society and real-life truths wrapped in fantasy, one of my very favorites from her is a children's book called Catwings.

I've kept the miniature version of this book on my desk at home since 1992. I found it in a bookstore in Seattle. It's about being kind, even when someone is different. It's about finding delight in something unique.

I like those parts. But it's also a disturbing book because the kitties that can fly are so different, they have to be kept a secret. "Because you know how people are. If people saw them-" The young children in the book already know that about the world. 

Oh, and I really thought that one day I would have a daughter and name her Ursula because of my admiration of Le Guin.

But then THIS Ursula arrived on the entertainment scene and I changed my mind. Yes, she is different and that is a treasure, but....I know that about the world.


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