Pearl C. Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia, while her Presbyterian missionary parents temporarily returned from China. Three months later they moved to Zhenjiang, a port city on the Yangzi River. There, as Buck later claimed she became fluent in Chinese before English. During the Boxer Rebellion, the family fled to Shanghai and returned to their home in Zhenjiang in 1902. From 1907 to 1909, Buck attended a Western boarding school in Shanghai. During her early years in China, she often contributed articles to the children's edition of the Shanghai Mercury.
In 1909 Buck left China and visited Europe and Great Britain before enrolling in Randolph-Macon College in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1910, graduating in 1914. She remained at the college to teach, but returned to China to care for her ailing mother in November 1914, where Buck taught school and trained Chinese women teachers. She married John L. Buck in 1917, who worked for the Presbyterian Church in China teaching modern agricultural methods, and moved with him to a small town in northern China. Her next several years here served as an inspiration for her novel, The Good Earth. In 1921 the couple moved to Nanjing where he accepted a position at the University of Nanjing. She also taught English literature as well at the university and at several other colleges over the next few years. The Bucks returned to the United States in 1925 to seek medical treatment for their retarded daughter, and enrolled at Cornell University. She worked on her MA in English winning a prize for her history essay "China and the West." The family returned to China in 1926, and barely escaped with their lives during the 1927 Nanjing Incident during the Northern Expedition's attempt to reunify China. The Bucks moved to Japan for a year until matters settled down in China. In 1929 she returned to America and published her first successful novel, East Wind: West Wind, short stories about Chinese life. She traveled back to Nanjing where she began work on The Good Earth, which, she claimed, she completed in three months, and published in 1931. It became an instant success, and won her a Pulitzer Prize. It would be expanded into a trilogy with Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935). She also translated the classic Chinese novel, Shui Hu Zhuan as All Men Are Brothers (1933), and wrote another novel about the life of a Chinese peasant woman, The Mother (1934). She returned permanently to the United States in 1934, and divorced her husband but retained his last name after marrying Richard J. Walsh, President of the John Day Company that published many of her books. In 1936 Buck published biographies of her parents: The Exile and The Fighting Angel. For her body of work, she received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938, making her an "expert" on China. From 1941 to 1946, she and her husband published Asia, a general magazine about life in that continent. During the Second World War, Buck worked for the Office of War Information and the United China Relief, while continuing to write Dragon Seed (1942) and Promise (1943), novels about the Chinese effort against the Japanese. She also organized the East and West Foundation to sponsor exchanges and dialogs for mutual understanding especially between the United States and Asia. In 1949 she founded Welcome Home, an adoption agency for American children of mixed Asian descent. In 1964 she established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation for Ameri-Asian children abroad. Shortly before her death, she gave up the rights to most of her written works so that the proceeds would benefit the Buck Foundation. She died on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermont.
Buck was a prolific writer producing about 100 books and countless articles. Besides her famous novels, she also wrote children's books and novels about American life under the pseudonym John Sedges. She is one of the most widely translated American authors.
The Good Earth.
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