The 2014 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
One of Literature’s most prestigious honors, the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional impact on this country’s literary heritage.
In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.
For more than forty years, Le Guin has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction. Among the nation’s most revered writers of science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin’s fully imagined worlds challenge readers to consider profound philosophical and existential questions about gender, race, the environment, and society. Her boldly experimental and critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and children’s books, written in elegant prose, are popular with millions of readers around the world.
“Ursula Le Guin has had an extraordinary impact on several generations of readers and, particularly, writers in the United States and around the world,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “She has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art. Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
“Ursula Le Guin has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. "Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”
Born in 1929 in Berkeley, California, and educated at Radcliffe College and Columbia University, Ursula K. Le Guin published her first novel, Rocannon’s World, in 1966. Over the course of her literary career, Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, seven books of poetry, four collections of essays, thirteen books for children, and five works of translation. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, established Le Guin’s reputation for daring experimentation and her internationally best-selling Books of Earthsea have been translated into thirty-one languages.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Le Guin won a National Book Award in 1973 for The Farthest Shore, and was a Finalist in 1972 for The Tombs of Atuan and in 1985 for Always Coming Home. Le Guin also has received a PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, a Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, twenty-one Locus Awards, six Nebula Awards, five Hugo Awards, three Asimov’s Readers Awards, a Pushcart Prize, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a Newbery Silver Medal. Le Guin’s lifetime achievement awards include the title of Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the Willamette Writers Lifetime Achievement Award, the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of California-Riverside’s Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for distinguished body of work from the Washington Center for the Book.
Le Guin lives in Portland, Oregon.
Neil Gaiman has written for adults and children. He has written poetry, songs, fiction and nonfiction. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula and the World Fantasy Award, and is the only author to be awarded both the Newbery and Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book. His most recent novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, was named the UK's National Book Award 2013 Book of the Year. Born in the UK, he has lived in the US for over 20 years.
Neil has been spending more and more time in the last few years advocating for libraries and on behalf of Refugees for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. He is a Professor in the Arts at Bard College.