HILLTOWN — Julie Henning has told her life story at churches, schools, civic groups and conferences, sharing about coming from poverty in her native Korea to Bucks County and being raised as Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author Pearl S. Buck's daughter.
Now, Henning has written about it in a new memoir, "A Rose in a Ditch."
"A lot of people used to say, you should write a book," she said, "so it finally got done."
Life was difficult as an Amerasian child of a Korean woman and an American soldier who served in the Korean conflict, she said. As a mixed-race child, she was not accepted as a member of either race, she said. After the war, her father returned to the United States and her mother raised her.
"I finished sixth grade in Korea, but the Korean government at that time did not offer free education to seventh grade on up and I had no means to go to school," Henning said.
After a social worker from the Pearl S. Buck Foundation (now Pearl S. Buck International) found her, she said, she went to live in a Pearl S. Buck Opportunity Center and was able to continue her schooling.
While she was in class one day, there was a knock on the door and she was told the principal wanted to see her, Henning said.
"He handed me a telegram saying that my mother has passed away," she said.
Her mother had escaped from North Korea to South Korea, Henning said, so Henning did not know any family members from North Korea.
"After my mother died, I was all alone. There was not even a distant relative I could call mine," she said. "I was truly an orphan."
She studied hard, including going into the bathroom after 10 p.m. lights out and turning the light on there to study while sitting on the floor, she said.
The work made her a top student, which caught the attention of the director of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation who notified Buck, Henning said.
"When she came to Korea, she met with me and asked me, how would you like to come to America to live with her as her daughter?" Henning said.
Two weeks after turning 14, she came to the United States and Buck's home, Henning said.
The house in Hilltown is now a National Historic Landmark. The property also houses Pearl S. Buck International.
"We continue Pearl S. Buck’s legacy of bridging cultures and changing lives through intercultural education, humanitarian aid, and sharing the Pearl S. Buck House, a National Historic Landmark," PSBI's website says.
"It was amazing living at this house," Henning said.
At the time, the property had more than 500 acres and included a swimming pool and tennis courts, she said.
Henning said she was the last of the children brought to live with Buck at her home. Two other girls who lived there when she arrived got married and left the house in the first year she was there, she said.
"She used to take me to lots of places," Henning said of Buck. "We had a very, very close relationship. I think she knew I loved her and she often told me that she loved me."
After Buck's death in 1973, Henning was adopted by Harry & Jean Price.
"They told me they always believed and prayed some day God would send them a child," she said, "and they adopted me when I was 19 years old. Can you believe that?"
Julie and her husband Doug, who live in Franconia, are both former teachers at Souderton Area School District's Indian Valley Middle School. Doug also coached football. He is now the family care pastor at First Baptist Church of Perkasie.
Son Doug and wife Kandece have three sons, Tre, Cole and Cade. Son Pete and wife Renee have two sons, Carter and Mason.
Henning said she is very thankful for the work Pearl S. Buck International does.
"A Rose in a Ditch" is available at the PSBI gift shop, Friendly Bookstore in Quakertown, Heartwarming Treasures in Souderton and on Amazon, she said. She will have a book signing Black Friday and the following day, Nov. 29 and 30, at the PSBI gift shop, she said. The book was published by the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Press.
Henning said she thinks everybody has a story to tell.
"I'm not a professional writer. I'm a math teacher, but I had a story to tell and that had to be told," she said.
"I am thankful how God orchestrates his goodness," she said.
She said she couldn't have written the book without the help of Doug, who typed it up and made grammatical changes while keeping the writing in her own voice. She said she had written it up with pencil and paper.
The book is being translated into Korean, she said.
Less than two weeks after the book was released, Henning said she was hearing a good response.
"People are saying that it is terrific, it is touching their hearts and minds," she said.
People also said it was inspiring and made them think about their life story, she said.