Pearl Buck was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia in 1892. When she was five months old, her missionary parents returned to China after having been in the United States specifically for her birth. Thus, she spent her childhood in China.
Buck returned to the United States at age 17 to attend Randolph-Macon College. Later, she went back to China with her husband to serve as Presbyterian missionaries and university teachers.
She received a master's degree from Cornell University, where she won the Laura Messenger Prize in History on the subject "China and the West." Her first novel, East Wind: West Wind, appeared in 1930. Her most famous novel was The Good Earth, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, Buck became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded for the biographies of her parents, The Exile and The Fighting Angel.
Following a divorce from her first husband, Buck married her publisher, John Day, and worked as an editor at John Day Company. She wrote more than 100 works of literature.