The Associated Press has reported that Ursula K. Le Guin and Junot Diaz are among 14 new members being welcomed into the American Academy of Arts and Letters this year. Le Guin was surprised by the accolade, as she said, “My reputation was made as a writer of fantasy and science fiction, a literature that has mostly gone without such honors.”
Michael Chabon led the charge, writing “As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer. From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”
The arts academy was founded in 1898 and has honored artists from iconic writer Henry James to modern songwriter Stephen Sondheim. Le Guin may be the most “genre” writer they’ve ever welcomed, so it’s fitting that she’s joining in a year that also includes Junot Diaz, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is an exploration of nerd culture. The new inductees will be celebrated at the academy in May, where Joyce Carol Oates will deliver the centennial Blashfield Foundation keynote address.