WVWC Conference to Celebrate Legacy of Pearl S. Buck

West Virginia Wesleyan College, in conjunction with West Virginia University, the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, and Davis and Elkins College, will host the second Pearl S. Buck Living Gateway Conference from September 13-15. The international conference will celebrate the life, literature, and legacy of one of the country’s most influential and accomplished authors and humanitarians. Held every other year, the first Living Gateway Conference took place in Morgantown in 2016. The 2018 conference in Buckhannon will feature presentations on various aspects of Buck’s life and work, as well as an art exhibit celebrating her influence in Korea, a keynote speech by one of China’s leading Pearl Buck experts, a bus trip to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, and a culinary tour of southeast Asia presented at Graceland Inn in Elkins, WV.

Buck, whose parents were missionaries for the Presbyterian Church, was born in Hillsboro, WV in 1892, and spent much of her early childhood living in Zhenjiang, China. Because her parents viewed the Chinese as equals, Pearl Buck was integrated into Chinese society, studying the language and interacting with ordinary Chinese citizens on a regular basis. These interactions heavily influenced her later writing, and made her the authoritative voice on Chinese life and culture throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1932, Pearl S. Buck was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her book The Good Earth, and in 1938 became the first American woman awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.” She spent much of her life committed to issues of equality and social justice that often put her ahead of her time, including racial integration, women’s rights, immigration, international adoption, and nuclear disarmament.

The Living Gateway Conference will open on Thursday, September 13 at 6 p.m. with a reception and art exhibition presented by Professor Chongko Choi exploring Pearl S. Buck’s influence in Korea. Choi, a professor of legal history at Seoul National University School of Law, will display over 20 calligraphic scrolls that he created and speak to their. The exhibit will take place at the Sleeth Gallery in McCuskey Hall on Wesleyan’s campus. Conference sessions will take place throughout the day on Friday, September 14 in the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, with a lunch presentation given by Marie Toner, the curator of the Pearl S. Buck House and archives in Perkasie, PA, which is operated by Pearl S. Buck International. The Pearl S. Buck house was Buck’s primary residence in the United States after returning from China in 1935.

Conference sessions will continue on Saturday morning, September 15 at West Virginia Wesleyan, before participants will take coach buses to Davis and Elkins College and Graceland Inn. There, Graceland executive chef Melanie Campbell will treat participants to a Pearl S. Buck-themed meal utilizing recipes from the Asian cookbook Buck penned in 1972. Immediately following lunch, Dr. Yingjian Guo, distinguished professor of English at Remnin University in Beijing, China, will present the conference keynote address. After a brief tour of the Pearl S. Buck holdings of the Booth Library at Davis and Elkins College, participants may choose to depart, or to travel on to Hillsboro and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace for an optional tour with docent Phyllis Lubin-Tyler.

The second Pearl S. Buck Living Gateway Conference is made possible in part by a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required by September 1 by visiting https://pearlsbuckconference.wvu.edu/. The website also contains lodging and travel information. For questions or more information, contact Brett Miller at miller_bt@wvwc.edu.

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