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About The Author: Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, most often stationed in China, and from childhood, Pearl spoke both English and Chinese. She returned to China shortly after graduation from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1914, and the following year, she met a young agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck. They married in 1917, and immediately moved to Nanhsuchou in rural Anhwei province. In this impoverished community, Pearl Buck gathered the material that she would later use in The Good Earth and other stories of China.
As an educated woman fluent in Chinese and English who lived in China for close to 40 years between 1892 and 1934, American writer Pearl S. Buck occupied a unique position, and with honesty and an eye for the beautiful, she brought her direct and observed experiences fully to bear on her fiction and non-fiction writing. Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, to Southern Presbyterian missionaries on temporary hiatus in the United States. When she was only three months old, her parents returned to China. She and her family heavily felt the impact of the turn-of-the-century Boxer Uprising against missionaries and other foreign presences in China, but nonetheless Buck developed a deep love, respect, and attachment for her adopted country and its people. From 1910 to 1914 Buck attend Randolph-Macon Women's College in Virginia, returning to China in 1915 to care for her ailing mother. Buck began writing seriously in her twenties, although her first book, EAST WIND, WEST WING did not come to print until 1930. The publication of her hugely successful book THE GOOD EARTH followed promptly in 1931. THE GOOD EARTH describes life as Buck observed it in an impoverished rural province of China where she lived with her first husband, John Lossing Buck, from 1917 to 1920. The first part of a multi-generational trilogy (followed by SONS (1932) and A HOUSE DIVIDED (1935), THE GOOD EARTH established Buck's international reputation. She won a Pulitzer Prize this work, and in 1938 she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Buck continued to work for the rest of her life, publishing prolifically--more novels, articles, and translations--and working tirelessly as a humanitarian and philanthropist. Buck had one daughter, who was born with a condition that caused severe mental handicaps and whose story she told in THE CHILD WHO NEVER GREW (1950). She was also astounded by the politics of adoption in China and the United States that left many mixed-race children unadopted. Through her Welcome House and the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, she worked to improve the conditions for children across the globe. Along with her second husband, publisher Richard Walsh, Buck founded the East and West Foundation to promote cultural exchange. At the age of 80, Buck died from lunch cancer in 1973
From the Publisher
Pearl Buck (1892-1973) wrote THE GOOD EARTH in three months, based on her observations of Chinese life and culture while she lived in China as the daughter of American missionaries. In the novel, Buck tells the story of a simple, traditional small-farmer, Wang Lung, whose highest priority is the land he farms himself with his wife, O-lan. Throughout, Wang Lung's family is contrasted to the wealthy and decadent Huangs, whose tie to the precious land has long been cut: they hire outsiders to do their farming and devote themselves to luxury. As the years go by, Wang Lung prospers as the corrupt Huangs decline--but by novel's end, he has become more like them, and his own children fall into the traps that wealth sets: leisure, opium, and a lack of respect for the good earth. Through Wang Lung and his family, Buck depicts the changes that were taking place in Chinese culture in the early 20th century. One interesting element of the novel is her attitude toward missionaries which, despite her background, is highly critical of their detachment from the people they are there to serve. Another is the description of foot-binding, a torturous practice indulged in mainly by the wealthy. Buck understands its origins and its importance to the Chinese, but it is clear that when O-lan, herself risen from poverty and therefore with unbound feet, decides to bind the feet of her daughter, the family has truly succumbed to the debased values of the wealthy. THE GOOD EARTH won the Pulitzer Prize when it was published, and Buck received the Nobel Prize in 1938, largely on the strength of this powerful novel.