pearl comfort sydenstricker buck (1892 – 1973)

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892, in West Virginia in Presbyterian missionaries, living in China. At the age of three months, she was taken back to China, where she spent most of the first forty years of her life. During the Boxer Uprising (1900) the family evacuated to Shanghai and later that year, the family returned to the US. In the States Pearl graduated ( 1914) then went back to China because her mother was very ill. In 1915, she met an agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck. The young couple married in 1917, and immediately moved to rural Anhwei province where Pearl Buck found the material for his novels about Cine like The Good Earth and other stories of China. The Bucks’ first child, Carol, but was profoundly retarded; then they adopted a baby girl, Janice. From 1920 to 1933, Pearl and his husband lived and taught in the campus of Nanking University. Pearl, Lossing and Pearl’s father spent terrible days during the “Nanking Incident”(1927) a fight in which many westerns were killed. Rescued by American boats they went to Japan and came back to China after a year. Meanwhile Pearl had begun to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines and her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day’s publisher, Richard Walsh, became Pearl’s husband after her divorce. In 1931, John Day published Pearl’s second novel, The Good Earth which won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted as a film in 1937. In 1938, Pearl won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first American woman to do so. In 1934 Pearl settled in the U.S.A. because of conditions in China, and to be closer to Richard Walsh and to her daughter Carol, who was in an institute in New Jersey. She taught at University, bought an old farmhouse , Green Hills Farm, in Bucks County, and adopted other six more children. Pearl became very active in American civil rights and women’s rights activities. In 1942, Pearl and Richard founded the East and West Association, dedicated to cultural exchange and understanding between Asia and the West and Welcome House an inter-racial adoption agency; Pearl also established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, which provides sponsorship funding for children in Asian countries. When Pearl Buck died in March, 1973, she had already published over seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translations from the Chinese.

The Good Earth (1937) directed by Sidney Franklin, starring Paul Muni, Luise Rainer. Pearl Buck’s great novel of famine, plague and the fight for survival in China is one of the greatest films Hollywood ever made. Both Muni and Rainer give faultless portrayals in this still wonderful film.

Dragon Seed (1942) by Jack Conway, starring Harold S. Bucquet and starring Katharine Hepburn, was about the impact of the Japanese invasion on a small Chinese community.

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