How well do we really know Pearl S. Buck? Born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, in 1892, she is often remembered as the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Good Earth,” the novel that explained China to Americans in the 1930s.
But Buck was more than a novelist and interpreter of China. As the essays in “Beyond The Good Earth” show, she possessed other passions and projects, some of which are just now coming into focus.
Who knew, for example, that Buck imagined and helped define multiculturalism long before it became a widely known concept? Or that she founded an adoption agency to locate homes for biracial children from Asia? Indeed, few are aware that she advocated successfully for a genocide convention after World War II and was ahead of her time in envisioning a place for human rights in American foreign policy.
Buck’s literary works, often dismissed as simple portrayals of Chinese life, carried a surprising degree of innovation as she experimented with the styles and strategies of modernist artists.
In “Beyond The Good Earth,” scholars and writers from the United States and China explore these and other often overlooked topics from the life of Pearl S. Buck, positioning her career in the context of recent scholarship on transnational humanitarian activism, women’s rights activism and civil rights activism.
Peter Conn, author of “Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography,” notes “The strength of this collection lies in the breadth and variety of the subjects discussed, from U.S. foreign policy to literary and political controversies in China to Pearl Buck’s accomplishments and influence as a writer and as a social and political activist. Taken collectively, these essays provide a rewarding survey.”
Jay Cole, one of the editors of “Beyond The Good Earth,” serves as senior adviser to the president of West Virginia University. He teaches courses about Pearl S. Buck as part of the WVU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and he is a member of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation board of directors.
Co-editor John R. Haddad chairs the American studies program at Penn State Harrisburg. He is the author of “The Romance of China: Excursions to China in U.S. Culture, 1776–1876” and “America’s First Adventure in China: Trade, Treaties, Opium, and Salvation.”
Learn more about the Pearl S. Buck Collection at West Virginia University.
To order WVU Press books visit wvupress.com, phone 800-621-2736, or visit a local bookstore like Taylor Books or West Virginia Book Company in Charleston, WV. To learn more about WVU Press, visit wvupress.com or Booktimist: A Blog about Books and Culture from West Virginia University Press. For updates on books and events, follow WVU Press on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or join our mailing list on wvupress.com.