PEARL SYDENSTRICKER was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia.The daughter of Presbyterian ministers in China, she received her early education in Shanghai and graduated from Randolph Macon Woman's College in 1914. She returned to China, became a university professor in Nanking, and married a missionary, John Lossing Buck, in 1917. Her only daughter was born mentally retarded, and she took full financial responsibility for the child's care and education.
In 1925, Buck brought her daughter to the United States for treatment and the next year earned a master's degree in English literature at Cornell University.At the same time, her articles about contemporary issues and Chinese life were appearing in Atlantic Monthly, Forum, and The Nation. She returned to China in 1926, and five years later, she had her first novel published. The Good Earth ( 1931), which became one of the most famous best-sellers in American fiction, was translated into over 30 languages and would help earn Buck the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. In 1935, it was published as part of a trilogy, House of Earth, that also included Sons ( 1932) and A House Divided ( 1935).
Divorced in 1934, Pearl Buck moved permanently to the United States.The following year, she married Richard J. Walsh, a New York publisher. Buck continued to write, publishing articles and a collection of short stories, The First Wife and Other Stories. The Exile, published in 1936, was in fact Buck's first book. Written after her mother's death in 1921, the story is a biography of a missionary wife, written as a memorial; Fighting Angel ( 1936) is a portrait of her father. She was elected to The National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1936.
Pearl Buck was as much a humanitarian as an author. The struggle against racial prejudice, the care and education of Amerasian children, and the needs of the mentally retarded were among her many concerns. In 1941, she founded the East and West Association to promote cultural understanding through literature and the arts. Before and during World War II, Buck was an active member of a group that brought food and medical supplies to China.
During this period, Buck continued to write about and be involved in China. Dragon Seed ( 1942) depicts the horror felt by Chinese farmers caught in the Japanese invasion and their subsequent resistance movement. In her autobiography, My Several Worlds ( 1954),