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Apr 5, 2011

Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) also known as Sai Zhen Zhu, was a prolific American sinologist who in 1938, became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces."

Pearl had begun to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, but it was Atlantic Monthly where Pearl published her first work "In China too” (1923). While studying at Cornell University in 1925, she wrote an article titled "A CHINESE WOMAN SPEAKS" which would later be the impetus for her first novel EAST WIND, WEST WIND (1930), published by the John Day Company's publisher, Richard Walsh, who eventually become Pearl's second husband, in 1935.

Although Buck had written earlier stories and essays about China, it was THE GOOD EARTH (1931)—the best-selling book of both in 1931 and 1932—which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935. PAVILION OF WOMEN (1946), is her open criticism of Chinese traditions and the plight of women. In 1949, she established the first international, interracial adoption agency Welcome House, Inc. and later Pearl S. Buck Foundation, both of these provides sponsorship funding for thousands of children “who, because of their birth, are not permitted to enjoy the educational, social, economic and civil privileges normally accorded to children."

Buck died of lung cancer on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermont and was buried at Green Hills Farm, her Pennsylvania estate, which is now a National Historic Site and the International Headquarters of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.

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