Ursula LeGuin

Dear Ursula,

When I was younger, my father suggested two book series to me: the Chronicles of Narnia and the Earthsea Trilogy. I read C.S. Lewis’s books and enjoyed them, but they didn’t speak to me the same way yours did.

It was my first experience with truly great world-building. The islands of Earthsea were filled with characters and creatures that felt rich and real. My first magical school wasn’t Hogwarts, but Roke with its Masters and students. I was fascinated by the way that words held power in your world, that to completely know a thing, you must know its true name. I quickly devoured The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore, entranced by Ged’s journey. There was something poignant in the way that his nemesis wasn’t some external evil, but one of his own creation.

Time went by, and I rediscovered your work in high school in The Left Hand of Darkness, which encouraged me to see the world in a different light through gender. Always Coming Home did the same though anthropology, The Dispossessed through socialism. Your work is the epitome of what science fiction should be: shifting stories to other times and spaces to reveal truths about our own.

In college, I had the privilege of taking a class from one of your colleagues in which we read several science fiction novels written by women. While it certainly opened my eyes to many authors, some of whom are now among my favorites, the core message of the class I already knew thanks to you: that science fiction and fantasy writing, like any field, is made better through diversity.

I sincerely thank you for your work and your talent, and I look forward to the time when I can pass on your stories to my children the way they were passed to me.

-Christopher

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The Absolutely True Story of a Banned Book

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Dorothy McQuaid
Showrunner for Pycera/Social Media for BWP
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“Too vulgar,” “crude language,” and “inappropriate for a middle school audience.” What do those bring to mind? Maybe heroin use, prostitution, murder, torture? In the case of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, these complaints refer to a 14-year-old main character talking about erections and masturbation, and discussing how community members’ alcoholism affects his life.

Readers, you have been warned. This post is going to talk about erections, masturbation, and alcoholism. If that’s too vulgar and crude for you, you may want to avoid the Backroom Whispering blog this month, because we’re talking about books that have been banned or challenged for a variety of reasons.

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