Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pearl S. Buck wrote of Chinese peasants

Pearl S. Buck
It is the birthday of writer Pearl S. Buck (1892), who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for her novel The Good Earth and the Nobel Prize for Literature for her epic writing about Chinese peasants and her biographies.

Buck's parents were Presbyterian missionaries and took her to China when she was only three months old. She grew up in China and, except for four years of college in Virginia, lived there until 1934.

She married John Lossing Buck in 1917. He was an agricultural economist. They lived in Nanking for 13 years and both taught at the University of Nanking. They left in 1934 with the rise of political unrest and the Communist Party. The Good Earth (1931) is set in a rural Chinese village before World War II. It is part of an ambitious trilogy that also includes Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935). The books introduced Americans to Chinese peasant culture.

The Good Earth was adapted as a Broadway play in 1932 and as a film in 1937.  Buck wrote more than 40 books, including two biographies about her mother's life as a missionary, two autobiographies, and numerous short stories. 

She was outraged at the plight of mixed race children born to Asian women, often left abandoned by American servicemen. In 1949, she established an international adoption agency for mixed race children, who were otherwise considered unadoptable. In 1964, she established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to support children in Asian countries who weren't eligible for adoption. Today Pearl S. Buck International continues to operate the agencies she started and preserve her legacy.

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