The Lives of Pearl Buck Critical Context - Essay

Irvin Block

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Lives of Pearl Buck was the first volume in a series called Women of America, which includes women noted for success in such a wide variety of fields as art, politics, business, medicine, and community organization. Like other volumes in the series, The Lives of Pearl Buck portrays how a talented, intelligent, and capable woman made her mark in the world. Buck was an obvious choice for this series because she was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was not only a famous writer but also a widely admired champion of social justice, racial equality, and charity toward unwanted children of racially mixed marriages. During her lifetime, she was a perennial favorite in newspaper polls to name the most admired women in the United States.

While it does not address some important issues, The Lives of Pearl Buck provides a good introduction to the fascinating events of Buck’s life. Yet so many of Buck’s own writings are easily within the grasp of children and young adults that they should be encouraged to read her works themselves. She wrote half a dozen books for children, including The Water-Buffalo Children (1943) and The Big Wave (1948). Many of her novels, such as The Good Earth and The Townsman (1945, written under the pseudonym of John Sedges), are appropriate for teenagers. In addition, there are her autobiographical accounts, such as My Several Worlds: A Personal Record (1954) and A Bridge for Passing (1962), and her unforgettable biographies of her father, Fighting Angel: Portrait of a Soul (1936), and her mother, The Exile (1936).