Recommendation: The Left Hand of Darkness

AgentRusco recommends…

left hand

I’m not through with it yet, but The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin deals very much with the issues of gender and sexuality. It is science fiction, taking place in the far future. The people of the planet have essentially no gender or fluid gender. It’s difficult to grasp, but a very clever study.

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Posted by on November 3rd, 2009 at 08:00 am

Category: books, recommendations 10 comments »

10 Responses to “Recommendation: The Left Hand of Darkness”

  1. Mika

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages. If only I could find a copy -_-


  2. Anna

    I read it and loved it, mainly for the nice interpersonal stories and fairy tales,…
    I found the gender aspect of it a bit annoying, because LeGuin creates a world that is not gendered, but then she does fall back on the male female binary, for sex, love relations and so on.
    But then it was written a long time ago, I do recommend the book.



  3. Katie

    Good, good book! I love it.
    Also, I think part of the reason LeGuin falls back on the gender binary is because her character is from a gendered world. When he sees someone in power, he sees the person as male, even though the person isn’t gendered – and then his assumptions tend to be turned around. I thought it was actually pretty cool.


  4. AgentRusco

    Yeah, I wasn’t terribly pleased with the way she dealt with gender, but it was certainly interesting anyhow.


  5. Anonymous

    Just wanted to chime in that Ursula K. LeGuin is AWESOME. I haven’t read this book yet, but The Wizard of Earthsea trilogy was a favorite when I was a kid.


  6. julian

    This is actually my dad’s favourite book, which says so much about my family hahaha… But yeah, I think contexually we have to understand that LeGuin was doing something revolutionary when she wrote this. Although now we can obviously see the binary that emerges, at the time “ungendered” worlds were rare in literature.


  7. Transverse Girl

    This is such a fun read. And, Powells in PDX is always out or running low on copies! Great recommendation.


  8. jean c.

    I love this book: I come back to it about once a year, always finding some new insights. I, too, have a slight problem with the way the pronouns are used — though I totally understand the era & context for it, as julian and katie said, and I think the characters do deepen beyond the pronouns as the book goes on.

    LeGuin wrote some other stories that are set on Gethen/Winter (the planet in the novel). I haven’t read them, but I’ve heard that in those stories, she uses “she” for all the Gethenian characters, but keeps the honorific words like “King”, “Prince”, etc. from the masculine tradition, very consciously understanding the dissonance that she is creating.

    It would be interesting to read a version of the book using gender-neutral pronouns, or a version using only “she”… has anyone done a homegrown re-edit in this way?


  9. sasha

    this is a great book, at the beginning it’s a little dry and inaccessible, but if you work through the first three chapters or so the rest of it is a delight.


  10. Marion

    I love The Left Hand of Darkness. I think that even beyond the coolness of the whole gender thing, it’s got an excellent plot, and I like how there’s a lot of Gethen’s mythology worked in. LeGuin is excellent at worldbuilding.
    I always find it strange when people refer to it as a ‘feminist’ book. As I recall no females show up in it – everyone is just nongendered except for the main character, who is male.


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