Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Coming of Age in Karhide: by Sov Thade Tage em Ereb, of Rer, in Karhide, on Gethen" by Ursula K. Le Guin

No this is more like it! In this short story, Le Guin revisits the androgynous/dual-sexed people of her classic novel The Left Hand of Darkness (Read it. Read it now.) to craft a coming of age story. This is particularly interesting not only because it explores the difficulties of puberty with a race of people that have the potential to become either sex each time they enter "Kemmer" (their monthly mating cycle), but that, when you really get down to it, the experience isn't really all that different from what humans go through. Perhaps a little less traumatic, in many senses, but very similar nonetheless.

This shouldn't be surprising to anyone that has read The Left Hand of Darkness though, since an overarching theme of the entire novel is the play between the alien and the familiar, and how, particularly, an alien race can simultaneously be so different from us, and, yet, so similar. This short story just takes that same theme in a new direction, removing the human observer from Left Hand and bringing the reader entirely into the mind of an alien. I think this is particularly important to the story, because, in many ways, it adds the extra layer of what is alien and new to the main character, yet, in some ways, still potentially familiar.

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