Named after the nearby city of Winona, she was given her middle name, Laura, because of her parents' friendship with Laura Huxley, writer Aldous Huxley's wife. Her stage name derives from Mitch Ryder, a soul and rock singer of whom her father was a fan. Ryder's father is an atheist and her mother is a Buddhist; they encouraged their children to take the best part of other religions and use them to make their own belief systems.  Ryder has one full sibling, a younger brother, Urie (named in honor of the first Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin), and two half-siblings from her mother's prior marriage: an older half-brother, Jubal Palmer, and an older half-sister, Sunyata Palmer. Ryder's family friends were her godfather, Timothy Leary, the Beat Movement poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick. In 1978, when Ryder was seven years old, she and her family relocated to Rainbow, a commune near Elk, Mendocino County, California, where they lived with seven other families on a 300-acre (120 ha) plot of land. As the remote property had no electricity or television sets, Ryder began to devote her time to reading and became an avid fan of J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. She developed an interest in acting after her mother showed her a few movies on a screen in the family barn.