Before there was the internet and a huge amount of access to information online, we relied solely on fantastic writers and historians to teach us about how other people in other parts of the world live.
One of those writers who made an impact and used her platform to educate Americans on another part of the world was Pearl S. Buck, whose literary works on life and China and human rights in Asia won her a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Pearl was born at her mother’s family home in West Virginia in 1892. Her parents had worked as missionaries in China and were on home leave when she was born. When Pearl was only three months old, she moved back to China with her family.
Growing up, she was educated by her mom and a Chinese tutor and was bilingual. Pearl had a passion for writing at a young age and was even published in a children’s newspaper when she was six. She spent many of her childhood years traveling back and forth from China to West Virginia, where she really valued visits to her mother’s home.
Pearl returned to the United States in 1910 to attend Randolph Macon Women’s College in Virginia.
She earned her Bachelor’s in Philosophy and returned to China after graduating. Around this time, she met agricultural missionary John Lossing Buck, whom she married in 1917.
Pearl and John lived in China for several years together and became parents. She worked as a teacher at local universities. Around this time, Pearl witnessed the Boxer Rebellion and the rise of the nationalist movement. She began to see how difficult life had become for Chinese peasants, and this issue would inspire her most popular piece of literature.
After returning to America to receive her Master’s in English at Cornell University in 1924, Pearl wrote articles for several magazines and published her first novel, “East Wind: West Wind,” written about her life experiences in China, in 1930.
The following year, Pearl published “The Good Earth,” a historical fiction novel about peasant life in China in the 1920s. “The Good Earth” was her claim to fame and remained a best seller for almost two years.