Pearl S. Buck: Background information when reading Pearl of China

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Pearl of China

A Novel

by Anchee Min

Pearl of China by Anchee Min
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 304 pages

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Beyond the Book:
Pearl S. Buck

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Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (born June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia) was an important and much lauded American writer, famous for her depictions of China and Chinese culture, which earned her a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for the novel The Good Earth and the first Nobel Prize awarded to an American woman for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

Pearl S. Buck She grew up in the town of Chenchiang, China and was raised by missionary parents until, at 15-years-old, she was sent to Shanghai to attend boarding school. She later enrolled at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia where she graduated with the class of 1914 with a bachelor's degree. After graduation, she traveled back to China and, with the exception of her brief time at Cornell University where she received her master's degree in 1926, lived there until 1934.

She was known as being an activist and created (or assisted with) multiple organizations designed to provide aid to people, children in particular. For example, she helped form the first international, interracial adoption agency, Welcome House, founded the East and West Association (having adopted several children herself), and worked with both the Urban League and the NAACP. She was a prolific writer having completed over 70 books, and was respected throughout communities across the globe for her open-hearted and highly compassionate way of thinking.

In her Nobel Prize speech, she said, "It is people that have always afforded me my greatest pleasure and interest, and as I live among the Chinese, it has been the Chinese people. When I am asked what sort of people they are, I cannot answer. They are not this or that, they are just people. I can no more define them than I can define my own relatives and kinsmen. I am too near to them, and I have lived too intimately with them for that."

Pearl S. Buck died three months before her 81st birthday on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermont.

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