Pearl S. Buck

Writer / Activist

Born: 26 June 1892
Died: 6 March 1973 (cancer)
Birthplace: Hillsboro, West Virginia
Best known as: The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote The Good Earth

Name at birth: Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker

 

Pearl S. Buck became an international celebrity with her runaway bestseller The Good Earth, a tale of Chinese peasants that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. She grew up in China, daughter to American Presbyterian missionaries who came back to the United States just long enough for Pearl to be born. She didn't return to the U.S. until 1910, when she entered Virginia's Randolph-Macon Woman's College. Pearl graduated in 1914 and went back to China, where she married missionary John Lossing Buck in 1917. They had a daughter with mental disabilities, and missionary work wasn't for Pearl; she began writing and in 1930 published her first novel, East Wind: West Wind. Throughout the 1930s her depiction of life in China guided the perceptions of Americans, and her novels were widely read, if not overpraised by critics. She returned to the U.S. in 1935, divorced Buck, married publisher Richard Walsh and settled in Pennsylvania. Pearl Buck became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1938), and she hobnobbed with activist celebrities of the day like Margaret Sanger and W.E.B. Du Bois. Among the many things she advocated was the adoption of disadvantaged children, and to that end she opened the Welcome House Adoption Program in 1949. (She and Walsh adopted six children of their own.) During her long career she wrote dozens of novels, plays, essays, opinion pieces and translations. Pearl S. Buck's novels include Sons (1932), A House Divided (1935) and Dragon Seed (1942). Buck's translations include All Men Are Brothers (1933, the Chinese classic Shui Hu Zhuan), and her books about her parents are The Exile (1936, her mother's story) and Fighting Angel (1936, her father's story).

Extra credit:

The Good Earth was made into a film in 1937, starring Paul Muni as Wang Lung and Luise Rainier as O-Lan... The Good Earth and Sons and A House Divided are sometimes referred to as the House of Earth trilogy... Pearl S. Buck's autobiography is Imperial Woman (1956).

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