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Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) was the first woman to receive both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize.
Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia. She grew up in China, where her parents were missionaries, living among the Chinese and not in the missionary compound. Buck was educated at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia. After her graduation she returned to China and lived there until 1934 with the exception of a year spent at Cornell University, where she received her masters degree in 1926. Pearl Buck began to write in the twenties; her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published in 1930. It was followed by The Good Earth (1931), Sons (1932), and A House Divided (1935), together forming a trilogy on the saga of the Wang family. The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize and was on the bestseller list for 21 months. It was also developed into an Oscar Award-winning film in 1937. She also published The First Wife and Other Stories (1933), All Men are Brothers (a translation of the Chinese novel Shui Hu Chuan) (1933), The Mother (1934), and This Proud Heart (1938). The biographies of her mother and father, The Exile and Fighting Angel, were published in 1936 and later brought out together under the title of The Spirit and the Flesh (1944). The Time Is Now, a fictionalized account of the author’s emotional experiences, although written much earlier, did not appear in print until 1967. Pearl Buck was active in many welfare organizations; in particular she set up an agency for the adoption of Asian-American children (Welcome House, Inc.) and took an active interest in developmentally challenged children (The Child Who Never Grew, 1950).
Buck was attacked by Senator Joseph McCarthy for her enlightened perspectives on life. She created the concept of international adoption. She fought for women’s rights. Buck was a visionary in appreciating the People’s Republic of China and its emergence as a world power. Through her writings and vast humanitarian activities, she often made attempts to reduce the cultures of China and the United States to their lowest common denominator in order to bridge the two worlds in which she lived and shared with her readers globally.