Pearl S Buck (1892 – 1973)

Pearl S.

Buck (birth name Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker) (June 26, 1892 - March 6, 1973) was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, with her novel The Good Earth, in 1932.

Born in Hillsboro, West Virginia to Caroline (Stulting) and Absalom Sydenstricker, Buck and her southern Presbyterian missionaries parents went to Zhejiang, China in 1895. She was brought up there and first knew the Chinese language and customs, especially from Mr. Kong, and then was taught English by her mother and her teacher. She was encouraged to write at an early age.

By 1910, she left for America and went to Randolph-Macon Women's College, where she would earn her degree in 1914. She then returned to China, and married an agricultural economist, John Lossing Buck, on May 13, 1917. In 1921, she and John had a daughter with phenylketonuria, Carol. The small family then moved to Nanjing, where Pearl taught English literature at University of Nanking. In 1925, adopted Janice (later surnamed Walsh) and subsequently 8 more adoptees. In 1926, she left China and returned to the United States for a short time in order to earn her Master of Arts degree from Cornell University.

Buck began her writing career in 1930 with her first publication of East Wind:West Wind. In 1931 she wrote her best known novel, The Good Earth, which is considered to be one of the best of her many works. The story of the farmer Wang Lung's life brought her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1932. Her career would keep flourishing, and she won the William Dean Howells Medal in 1935.

Pearl was forced to flee China in 1934 due to political tensions. She returned to the United States, and obtained a divorce from her husband. She then married Richard J. Walsh, president of the John Day Publishing Company, on June 11, 1935, and adopt six other children. In 1938 she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, after writing biographies of her parents, The Fighting Angel.

In her lifetime, Pearl S. Buck would write over 100 works of literature, her most known being The Good Earth. She wrote novels, short stories, fiction, and children's stories. Many of her life experiences are related to or in her books. She wanted to prove to her readers that universality of mankind can exist if they accept it. She dealt with many topics including women, emotions (in general), Asians, immigration, adoption, and conflicts that many people go through in life. In 1949, she established Welcome House Inc., the first adoption agency dedicated to the placement of bi-racial children, particulary Amerasians.

Pearl S. Buck died on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermont and was interred in Green Hills Farm, Perkasie, Pennsylvania.

Books by Pearl S Buck