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Better Worlds: A Panel on Ursula K. Le Guin’s Legacy

Authors Michelle Ruiz Keil and Juhea Kim discuss Ursula K. Le Guin’s legacy through exploration of pacifism and environmentalism in her works.

In this episode of The Archive Project, we feature a discussion on late writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s legacy of pacifism and environmentalism. Our moderator is Theo Downes-Le Guin, Ursula’s son and literary executor. Theo is in conversation with Oregon-based writers Juhea Kim, author of the novel Beasts of a Little Land, a finalist for the 2022 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Michelle Ruiz Keil, author most recently of the young adult novel Summer in the City of Roses, which was a finalist for the inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction.

In her speech at the 2014 National Book Awards, accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Ursula said: “Hard times are coming, when we’ll 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.”

Juhea Kim and Michelle Ruiz Keil are two of those voices that we need now. In this conversation, Juhea and Michelle discuss how they came—and returned—to Le Guin’s work, her influence on their writing, and how they are carrying her legacy forward, including the responsibility of the artist as a humanitarian.

This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience at Literary Arts on July 15, 2022.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin

Find your copy of these books through the LITERARY ARTS PAGE ON BOOKSHOP.ORG.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) was a celebrated author whose body of work includes 23 novels, 12 volumes of short stories, 11 volumes of poetry, 13 children’s books, five essay collections, and four works of translation. The breadth and imagination of her work earned her six Nebula Awards, seven Hugo Awards, and SFWA’s Grand Master, along with the PEN/Malamud and many other awards. In 2014 she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2016 joined the short list of authors to be published in their lifetimes by the Library of America.

Michelle Ruiz Keil is an author, playwright, and tarot reader with an eye for the enchanted and way with animals. She is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult novels All of Us With Wings and Summer In The City of Roses. Her writing for adults can be found most recently in Bitch, Cosmonauts Avenue, and the anthology Dispatches From Anarres: Tales in Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin. She is a 2021 Tin House Scholar and the recipient of residencies from Hedgebrook, The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and the Bloedel Reserve. Born in San Francisco, Michelle has lived in Portland, Oregon for many years where she curates the fairytale reading series All Kinds of Fur and lives with her family in a cottage where the forest meets the city.

Juhea Kim is a writer, artist, and advocate based in Portland, Oregon. Her bestselling debut novel Beasts of a Little Land was named a finalist for the 2022 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and a Best Book of 2021 by Harper’s BazaarReal SimpleMs., and Portland Monthly. Her writing has been published in GrantaSliceThe Massachusetts Review, ZyzzyvaGuernicaCatapultTimes Literary SupplementThe IndependentSierra Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the founder and editor ofPeaceful Dumpling, an online magazine at the intersection of sustainable lifestyle and ecological literature. She has received fellowship support from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, and Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She earned her BA in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University.

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