READ BANNED BOOKS: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

There came a day when summer was ended and the sky in early morning was clear and cold and blue as seas water and a clean autumn wind blew hard over the land, and Wang Lung woke as from a sleep. He went to the door of his house and he looked over his fields. And he saw that the waters had receded and the sun lay shining under the dry cold wind and under the ardent sun

Then a voice cried out in him, a voice deeper than love cried out in him for his land. And he heard it above every other voice in his life and he tore off the long robe he wore and he tripped off his velvet shoes and his white stockings and he rolled his trousers to is knees and he stood forth robust and eager and he shouted,

"Where is the hoe and where is the plow? And where is the seed for the wheat planting? Come, Ching, my friend—come—call the men—I go out to the land!"

—Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth


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What’s it about?

The Good Earth is the first installment of Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck’s generational House of Earth trilogy—followed by Sons and A House Divided. The novel focuses on a rural Chinese family at the turn of the 20th Century as Wang Lung, the protagonist, struggles with fortunes and misfortunes, including degenerate landowners, slavery, opium, poverty, famine and displacement.

Why was it banned?

The Good Earth was banned by Mao Zedong for presenting an “unromantic” agrarian viewpoint, which is interesting considering his failed land policies led to one of the worst famines of all time.

Why shouldn’t it be banned?

It’s a beautifully written book. And an accurate one, too. Buck spent her childhood in China with her missionary parents, and later returned to the country with her husband, who was an agricultural economist missionary. Through her wealth of experience, Buck was able to present a fully-realized and authentic China to American audiences, who had only interacted largely with Chinese expatriates.

Is it coming off the blacklist soon?

In China? Probably not. Considering the People’s Republic tried to imprison Ai Weiwei, arguably China’s most well-know contemporary artist, for speaking against the government, it’s unlikely The Good Earth will make it’s way into Chinese classrooms any time soon.

Where can I find it?

Not China? Discounted e-copies here. Physical paperbacks can be found here.