URSULA K. LE GUIN was born Ursula Kroeber on October 21, 1929, in Berkeley, California, the youngest of four children and the only daughter of Alfred and Theodora Kroeber. Her parents were intellectuals: Alfred was an anthropologist famed for his work with the indigenous American Indians of California; Theodora had her graduate degree in psychology but is better known for her biography of a North American Indian, Ishi in Two Worlds ( 1961). During the year, while Alfred taught at the University of California, the family stayed in their Berkeley house, but over the summers, they moved to their estate, Kishamish, in the Napa valley. Ursula remembers her childhood as relatively happy and recalls spending her time reading and listening to the family's interesting guests (including Robert Oppenheimer). Among her favorite reading matter growing up were collections of Greek and Norse mythologies, Frazer's The Golden Bough, and science fiction stories in Thrilling Wonder Stories and Astounding. She wrote her first fantasy at the age of nine, and at eleven she submitted a science fiction story to Amazing Stories.
After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1951, Ursula earned her master's degree in French and Italian Renaissance literature at Columbia University. Ursula won a Fulbright Fellowship to France to continue her doctoral work in 1953; on her ocean liner voyage to Europe, she met a history professor, Charles Le Guin, whom she married later that year in Paris and with whom she would have three children. She later chose to leave her graduate work and move with her husband to Portland, Oregon, where he was to teach at the university. Her father in the meantime had died in Paris.
Although she was busy raising her children, Le Guin continued to write when she could. Her first work to be accepted was "An Die Musik" in Western Humanities Review in 1961; a year later, a story, " April in Paris," was published in Fantastic. After these first publications, Le Guin's career as a writer accelerated: she published several volumes of poetry and numerous short stories in magazines, and, on the suggestion of a publisher at the Parnassus Press, Le Guin first considered writing fiction for young adults.
Out of this suggestion came Le Guin's award-winning Earthsea series, beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968. She would become most famous as an original writer of science fiction, but her first great success as a published writer was this young-adult fantasy novel.