Pearl Sydenstricker was born in 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia. However, she spent most of her childhood in China, and learned Chinese as her first language, then English. She was educated by her mother and a Confucian scholar who was her Chinese tutor until she was 15. When she was 15 years old, she was sent to a Shanghai boarding school where she stayed until she was 18. Then she went back to Virginia in the United States and attended the Randolph-Macon Women's College, studying psychology. She graduated from there in 1914 and returned to China to teach.
While in China, Pearl met and married Dr. John Lassing Buck and they lived together in a village in North China. There she worked as a teacher and her husband's interpreter until they moved to Nanking. In Nanking, she taught English and American literature at a university. In 1926, Pearl received her Master of Arts in Literature at Cornell University and a year later she moved back to China. However, Pearl and her family were soon evacuated to Japan.
In 1931, Pearl wrote her breakthrough novel called The Good Earth, which became very popular and was even made into a movie. One million eight hundred thousand copies were sold in the first year and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Pearl wrote two sequels to The Good Earth: Sons in 1932 and A House Divided in 1935.
In 1936, Pearl became a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1938, she received the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded by the Swedish Academy. A year later, she wrote The Patriot and also adopted nine children, adding to the children she already had. During World War II, Pearl lectured and wrote on democracy and American feelings towards Asia. She wrote The Angry Wife in 1949 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1951. In 1952, Pearl wrote The Hidden Flower and she and her husband became part of the East and West Association, created to promote mutual understanding between the United States and Asia.
Pearl S. Buck died on March 6, 1972 at 80 in Danby, Vermont. She was a women's rights crusader, a philanthropist, and a popular author of novels on life in China. Before her death, Pearl had been working on a third sequel to The Good Earth called The Red Earth, but it was never completed.
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