Pearl S. Buck was born Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker on June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia, the fourth of seven children, to missionary parents.
She traveled with her parents Absalom and Caroline to China when she was 3 months old and would spend most of the 40 years of her life living there. When she arrived in the late 19th century, China was 50 years away from becoming a Communist country.
In the 1900s during the Boxer Rebellion, many Western missionaries and Chinese people were murdered. It would lead to the fall of the last Chinese dynasty.
At age six, her first published work appeared in the English-language Shanghai Mercury, a newspaper with a weekly children’s edition.
She began to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930.
Pearl Buck married an agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck in 1917. They spent their first five years in a small town in North China. Memories of peasant life in the region became the basis for her best-known work, The Good Earth, part of a trilogy about the Wang family. It became the best-selling book of both 1931 and 1932, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935, and would be adapted as a film in 1937.
She was active in American civil rights and women's rights activities and published essays in both Crisis, the journal of the NAACP, and Opportunity, the magazine of the Urban League; she was a trustee of Howard University for twenty years, beginning in the early 1940s.
She was the first woman to be awarded both the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize in literature and wrote over 80 books, including Pearl S. Buck’s Oriental Cookbook.
Pearl Buck died of lung cancer on March 6, 1973, just two months before her eighty-first birthday and is buried at Green Hills Farm in Pennsylvania.
“Know what you like best, and find a way to make a living at it."
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- “Brief Biography of Pearl S. Buck.” Brief Biography of Pearl S. Buck | Department of English
- Farge, Ann La. Pearl Buck. Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.
- Sherk, Warren. Pearl S. Buck: Good Earth Mother. Drift Creek Press, 1992.
- Stivers, Valerie. “Cooking with Pearl Buck.” The Paris Review, 31 Aug. 2018