Catalogue


Pearl S. Buck : a cultural biography /
Peter Conn.
imprint
Cambridge [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1996.
description
xxvi, 468 p. : ill.
ISBN
0521560802 (hc)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1996.
isbn
0521560802 (hc)
catalogue key
721509
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 383-450) and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
National Book Critics Circle Awards, USA, 1996 : Nominated
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1996-07-22:
In this brilliantly conceived biography, Conn, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania, sets out to reconstruct Buck's life, her extraordinary commitment to social justice and her literary achievement. To her many (primarily male) critics, Buck was an overrated storyteller whose best-selling portrayals of Chinese peasants struggling in a land on the brink of revolution in no way merited the Pulitzer or Nobel prizes. Time and the reading public seem to have agreed, as only The Good Earth survives‘principally as a late-night movie classic. Born in West Virginia in 1892 to Protestant missionary parents, Pearl Sydenstricker spent almost all of her first 40 years in China. Although she was bilingual, she felt an outsider in both countries, and Conn speculates that her experiences in China's white minority led to a lifelong advocacy of interracial understanding. She went to college in the U.S., but returned to China, where she married her first husband, J. Lossing Buck, and gave birth to her only child, who suffered from phenylketonuria (PKU). Then, in 1934, faced with the Japanese invasion, civil tensions and escalating anti-foreigner sentiment, the Bucks returned to the U.S. As her literary works slipped into obscurity, Buck spent the decades until her death in 1973 devoting herself to issues of interracial conflict, immigration and the adoption of disadvantaged children, eventually establishing Welcome House, the first international, interracial adoption agency. Perhaps Buck's fortunes have finally turned, for she has been singularly lucky in her biographer. Drawing on Buck's own words and actions, Conn steers a sympathetic yet intelligently balanced course, revealing in fascinating detail the gripping life story of a compelling woman. Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1996-09:
Buck (1892-1973) knew the costs of cultural practices that oppress. A child of evangelical Protestant missionaries in China, she witnessed her father's accepted oppression of her mother via the Chinese caste system that trapped girls and women. Buck, who always considered herself an outsider, carried these thoughts with her when she left China to study in America. Later, her efforts on behalf of sexual and racial equality, religious diversity, world peace, birth control, interracial adoption, and humane treatment of handicapped people (her daughter Carol was retarded) fueled her personal autonomy and her prodigious output as a writer of fiction and nonfiction. The Good Earth (1931) brought her great popularity and the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1938 she won the Nobel. Aware that Buck's writing has fallen out of fashion, Conn (Literature in America, LJ 7/89) believes and proves that Buck helped enormously in forging an understanding of American and Chinese culture and deserves a place in American letters by virtue of her humanitarian work. His book is expertly written, not only as a biography but also as a political history. Highly recommended.‘Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 1997-01-01:
This biography is the best available scholarly discussion of a remarkably popular author and Nobel laureate who has been neglected by most literary historians. Like Paul A. Doyle (Pearl S. Buck, CH, Nov'65; rev. ed., 1980) and Nora Stirling (Pearl Buck: A Woman in Conflict, 1983), Conn (Univ. of Pennsylvania) provides a sympathetic but balanced overview of Buck's nonfiction and fiction, including The Good Earth (1931), a best-selling novel that won the Pulitzer Prize. Conn surpasses these earlier biographers, however, in so thoroughly exploring the author's lifelong relationship with China. A daughter and wife of missionaries, the bilingual Buck spent the first half of her life in Asia. Her experience as an outsider had a great impact on her books and on the many causes she championed--from birth control to civil rights--in the face of criticism from both liberals and conservatives. "Never before or since has one writer so personally shaped the imaginative terms in which America addresses a foreign culture," Conn persuasively argues. The father of a child adopted through Buck's Welcome House agency, Conn brings a personal interest to this absorbing and carefully documented study. Highly recommended as a valuable addition to all public and academic library collections. J. W. Hall University of Mississippi
Reviews
Review Quotes
"...A considerable achievement." Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China
'A fascinating book and one that is, for all its scholarly apparatus and methodical presentation of data, as much of a page turner as anything Buck ever wrote ... Peter Conn's biography is an indispensable resource.' New York Times Book Review
'A fascinating book and one that is, for all its scholarly apparatus and methodical presentation of data, as much of a page turner as anything Buck ever wrote ... Peter Conn's biography is an indispensable resource.'New York Times Book Review
‘A fascinating book and one that is, for all its scholarly apparatus and methodical presentation of data, as much of a page turner as anything Buck ever wrote ... Peter Conn’s biography is an indispensable resource.’New York Times Book Review
"At last! A fascinating biography of Pearl S. Buck, vividly written, vigorously researched....a gripping, stunning read." Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt
"Conn examines almost every piece of work Buck ever wrote and explains why it's important today....[he] has gone far beyond merely touting Buck's literary merits to portray a consistent, believable and immensely fascinating woman. This is biography at its best: informative and entertaining....Conn has done an amazing amount of research....a compelling biography, a must-read for people interested in China, the publishing world, awe-inspiring women, the struggles of people of color, or, the day-to-day dramas of human life." The Los Angeles Times
'Expertly written, not only a biography but as political history as well.' Library Journal
'Expertly written, not only a biography but as political history as well.'Library Journal
‘Expertly written, not only a biography but as political history as well.’Library Journal
"...expertly written, not only as a biography but also as a political history." Library Journal
"Meticulously researched, well-written, thorough and fair in its assessment of one of the most popular American writers of the century, this scholarly treatise is more than a biography, It is a cultural history of East-West relations." Reese Danley-Kilgo, Huntsville, AL Times
"Nevertheless, she certainly was a major figure of her time, and to follow her life in Conn's finely detailed narrative is to encounter a powerful and moving 20th century experience...All these facets of Buck's life are sensitively described by Conn, who never allows his admiration for his subject to blind him to her frailties and her mistakes in judgement." Lousville, KY Courier-Journal (the reviewer is Richard Bernstein, with The New York Times)
'Peter Conn, Buck's biographer, has done an amazing job of reminding us about Pearl Buck, and about our own recent past. Conn came to this project not through her books ... but through one of Buck's agencies. He's responded, paid his debt, with almost Chinese filial piety, in writing this elegant, absorbing book.' Washington Post
'Peter Conn, Buck's biographer, has done an amazing job of reminding us about Pearl Buck, and about our own recent past. Conn came to this project not through her books ... but through one of Buck's agencies. He's responded, paid his debt, with almost Chinese filial piety, in writing this elegant, absorbing book.'Washington Post
‘Peter Conn, Buck’s biographer, has done an amazing job of reminding us about Pearl Buck, and about our own recent past. Conn came to this project not through her books ... but through one of Buck’s agencies. He’s responded, paid his debt, with almost Chinese filial piety, in writing this elegant, absorbing book.’Washington Post
"Peter Conn has written a very readable biography of one whose life reflects much of the complexity of her time." Catherine Kord, The American Review
"Peter Conn's fine book, at once scholarly and readable, should do much to awaken awareness of her [Buck's] significant place in twentieth century American history....Drawing on his academic training in American Studies, he sets the events of her life against a rich background of Chinese and American political and social history. The impressive range of his research can be seen in the extensive notes, which fill almost seventy pages....His richly detailed and informative book should do much to encourage the reassessment of the life of this remarkable woman." Elizabeth Johnston Lipscomb, Magill's Literary Annual
"This biography is the best available scholarly discussion of a remarkably popular author and Nobel laureate who has been neglected by most literary historians....Highly recommended as a valuable addition to all public and academic library collections." Choice
'[T]his brilliantly conceived biography steers a sympathetic yet intelligently balanced course, revealing in fascinating detail the gripping life story of a compelling woman.' Publishers Weekly
‘[T]his brilliantly conceived biography steers a sympathetic yet intelligently balanced course, revealing in fascinating detail the gripping life story of a compelling woman.’Publishers Weekly
'With straightforward prose and balanced assessment of her accomplishments, Conn convinces us that Pearl Buck was a great person indeed.' Booklist
'With straightforward prose and balanced assessment of her accomplishments, Conn convinces us that Pearl Buck was a great person indeed.'Booklist
‘With straightforward prose and balanced assessment of her accomplishments, Conn convinces us that Pearl Buck was a great person indeed.’Booklist
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, July 1996
Kirkus Reviews, August 1996
Library Journal, September 1996
Booklist, October 1996
Choice, January 1997
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Peter Conn recounts Buck's life in great detail, tracing the parallel course of American and Chinese history and politics of the 19th and 20th centuries. Buck is one of the least studied figures in American/Chinese cultural history.
Description for Bookstore
Described by the Washington Post as an 'elegant absorbing book', Peter Conn's critically acclaimed biography retrieves from the footnotes of literary and cultural history one of the most popular novelists of the twentieth century, winner of a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for Literature and an active social and political campaigner.
Description for Bookstore
Described by the Washington Post as an ‘elegant absorbing book’, Peter Conn’s critically acclaimed biography retrieves from the footnotes of literary and cultural history one of the most popular novelists of the twentieth century, winner of a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for Literature and an active social and political campaigner.
Description for Library
One of the most popular novelists of the twentieth century, winner of a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for Literature and an active social and political campaigner, particularly in the field of women's issues and Asian-American relations, Pearl Buck has, until now, remained 'hidden in public view'. Best known as the author of The Good Earth, Buck led a life which extended well beyond her eighty works of fiction and non-fiction and deep into the public sphere - Peter Conn's critically acclaimed biography is essential reading for anyone wishing to learn about this extraordinary woman.
Main Description
One of the most popular novelists of the twentieth century, winner of a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for Literature and an active social and political campaigner, particularly in the field of women's issues and Asian-American relations, Pearl Buck has, until now, remained 'hidden in public view'. Best known, perhaps, as the prolific author of The Good Earth, Buck led a career which extended well beyond her eighty works of fiction and non-fiction and deep into the public sphere. In this critically acclaimed biography, Peter Conn retrieves Pearl Buck from the footnotes of literary and cultural history and reinstates her as a figure of compelling and uncommon significance in twentieth-century literary, cultural and political history.
Main Description
Pearl S. Buck was one of the most renowned, interesting, and controversial figures ever to influence American and Chinese cultural and literary history--and yet she remains one of the least studied, honored, or remembered. In this richly illustrated and meticulously crafted narrative, Conn recounts Buck's life in absorbing detail, tracing the parallel course of American and Chinese history. This "cultural biography" thus offers a dual portrait: of Buck, a figure greater than history cares to remember, and of the era she helped to shape.
Table of Contents
Preface: Rediscovering
Missionary childhood
New worlds
Winds of change
The Good Earth
An exile's return
The prize
Wartime
Losing battles
Pearl Sydenstricker
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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