Nobel Prize in Literature Recipient, Pulitzer Prize Recipient, Social Reformer. Pearl Buck received world-wide recognition as an award-winning American author and in 1938 being the first American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was awarded the Nobel Prize "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces." Born Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker, the fifth of seven children, her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, who brought her at the age of five months to China. She learned to speak Chinese before she could speak English. After being educated by her mother and by a Chinese tutor, Buck was sent to a boarding school in Shanghai at the age of fifteen. She continued her education in the United States at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia, where she studied psychology. After graduating in 1914, she returned to China as a teacher for the Presbyterian Board of Missions. In May of 1917, she married Dr. John Lossing Buck, an agricultural expert, who was devoted to his work. Buck worked as a teacher and interpreter for her husband and traveled through the countryside. In the 1920 she moved to Nanking, where she taught English and American literature at the university. In 1924 she returned to the United States to seek medical care for her daughter Carol, who was mentally retarded from PKU. While in the United States, she earned a Masters in Arts degree from Cornell University in 1926. The Bucks went back to China in 1927. During the Chinese Civil War in 1934, they were evacuated to Japan and never returned to China. In 1935 Buck divorced her first husband and married her publisher Richard Walsh, with whom she moved to Pennsylvania. Starting her writing career in 1930, Buck's debut novel was "East Wind, West Wind," which was followed by "The Good Earth" in 1931. "The Good Earth" gained a wide audience and was made into a motion picture in 1937. Besides receiving the Nobel Prize for "The Good Earth," she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and William Dean Howells Medal for Distinguished Fiction in 1935. In 1936 she was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. One of the major themes in many of her books was interracial love. Some of her other book were "The Patriot", "The Chinese Novel", "The Angry Wife", "The Hidden Flower", and "Command the Morning". The biographies of her mother and father, "The Exile" and "Fighting Angel," were published in 1936 and later combined in 1944 under the title of "The Spirit and the Flesh." These biographies impressed the Nobel Prize committee. Her family included eight adopted children, her step-children, a host of foster children as well as her only biological daughter. At times addressing serious subjects, she was a prolific writer, authoring more than 100 works of fiction and nonfiction, which included 14 children's books. She also wrote five novels under the pen name of John Sedges. Besides her prolific writings, she provided generous humanitarian aide and started social reforms internationally. After war started between Japan and China, she became the chairman of the United China Relief in 1941 requesting funds for much-needed clothing, food, and medical supplies for the Chinese people. For her efforts in China, the Chinese Ambassador Hun Shih presented her with the Order of Jade. In 1949 she co-founded "Welcome House," the first international, interracial adoption agency in the United States, in an effort to give homes to the orphans with Asian mothers and United States military servicemen as fathers. Upon returning to the United States, she became active in the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements. Seriously addressing the subject of mental retardation, she published in 1950 "The Child Who Never Grew", which gives insights on her relationship with her daughter Carol and was the first book to openly address the subject. Her home in Buck County, Pennsylvania is on the National Registry for Historic Landmarks. The year before she died, she requested a visa to return to China but it was denied by the Communist government. She died from lung cancer. To bridge cultures and bring about change in children's lives by international cultural education and humanitarian aide, she founded in 1956 The Pearl S. Buck International, leaving most of her estate to this cause.
Bio by: Jelena