Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pearl S. Buck centennial graduation anniversary celebration begins with Anchee Min lecture

Speaking at Randolph College allowed Anchee Min to answer some long-held questions about Pearl S. Buck, one of her literary inspirations who graduated in the Class of 1914.

“I said yes to this invitation because I was very curious about this College,” said Min. “I wanted to know what kind of school had prepared and shaped Pearl Buck’s mind at the critical thinking level and also at the global level.”

Anchee Min signs books after her lecture at Randolph College.

Min, a novelist and memoirist, visited Randolph this week to begin a celebration of Buck’s centennial graduation anniversary. Tuesday afternoon, she attended a combined session of two writing classes and talked about the process of writing, her life in China, and her respect for Buck. She shared her story during a public lecture.

As a child, Min spent her summers not far from the region of China where Buck grew up. She first heard of Buck, though, when she was in middle school, and students were assigned to write essays denouncing Buck and her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Good Earth, which teachers and communist leaders claimed was insulting to Chinese peasants.

Decades later, Min was given a copy of The Good Earth while on a book tour in the United States. Reading the novel she had once denounced was an awakening experience. “I have never read any authors who portrayed our peasants with such love, affection, and compassion,” she said. She decided right then she would someday write a book about Buck.

Min told the audience at Randolph how she set out to learn more about Buck, visiting Buck’s home and interviewing many people who knew her. She wrote Pearl of China, a novel that portrays Buck as the friend of a young Chinese girl. Central to the book is her depiction of Buck as a loving and compassionate person. “Pearl Buck never lost her love and her faith in China,” Min said.