REVEAL from Books & Beginnings VI – A Wizard of Earthsea introduced me to Ursula Le Guin. Aside from falling in love with the story, I found a mentor, an inspiration beyond the boys’ club of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, and all of those guys. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the boys. Do not take anything away from the masters. They are great.
I was a writer from age six. I had volumes upon volumes of notebooks filled with stories by the time adolescence reared its ugly head. I wanted to write fantasy like Tolkien. I had read children’s books by female authors that toyed with fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time, for example, but Le Guin’s work was elevated somehow. Like a Tolkien. I saw a master in her. Something rich beyond the text, an invisible force made manifest in words.
Society kept trying to tell me what I couldn’t do, what I shouldn’t do, what I mustn’t do as a young female. I never listened. I was the first girl to play Little League baseball in my neck of the woods. I played guitar. I hunted, I camped, I played football and soccer in the dirt with dozens of boys.
I could not be forced into a dress, and I did not associate with girls much. I did like this weird insistence that girls must be pretty, and well-behaved. Boys could be Jabba the Hut, and that was fine. I was not going to be pretty and I was developing a temperment that would scare the flab right off that Star Wars monster. Remember, horrible gender dysphoria followed me into adolescence. Reading Ursula Le Guin told me “Keep fighting. Do what you want.”
In seventh grade, in my honors English class, I wrote a paper on Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 that for whatever reasons made my teacher giddy. She read it to the whole class. As a reward, aside from the big shiny A, she handed me the next book of a great beginning that I will share with you. She felt sure I would enjoy it or at least appreciate it. She was right.
It was a bright, clear day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.