Pearl Buck Biography

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973), also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu, was an American writer who spent most of her time until 1934 in China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces."

Pearl Sydenstricker was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, to Caroline Stulting (1857–1921) and Absalom Sydenstricker. Her parents, Southern Presbyterian missionaries, traveled to China soon after their marriage on July 8, 1880, but returned to the United States for Pearl's birth. When Pearl was three months old, the family returned to China, first in Huai'an and then in 1896 moved to Zhenjiang (then often known as Jingjiang or, in the Postal Romanization, Tsingkiang), (this is near Nanking).

Of her siblings who survived into adulthood, Edgar Sydenstricker (1881-1936) had a distinguished career in epidemiology as an official with the Milbank Memorial Fund and Grace Sydenstricker Yaukey (1899-1994) was a writer who wrote young adult books and books about Asia under the pen-name Cornelia Spencer.

The Boxer Uprising greatly affected Pearl and family; their Chinese friends deserted them, and Western visitors decreased. Pearl was raised in a bilingual environment, tutored in English by her mother and in classical Chinese by a Chinese scholar named Mr. Kung. In 1911, Pearl left China to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, US, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1914 and a member of Kappa Delta Sorority. From 1914 to 1933, she served as a Presbyterian missionary, but her views later became highly controversial in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy, leading to her resignation.