Merry White (also known as Corky) was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Chicago and Minnesota. She received her degrees (A.B., A.M., and PhD) from Harvard University in Anthropology (East Asian), Comparative Literature (English, French and Italian), and Sociology (Japan). She was Director of the Project on Human Potential at the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1980 - 1986, a multinational study of learning with case studies in Japan, India, The People's Republic of China, Egypt, West Africa and Mexico. She was also Director of International Education at the School of Education during this period, and from 1976 - 1987 was administrator of the East Asian Studies undergraduate program at Harvard College. In 1987 she began teaching at Boston University and received tenure in 1989.
Her publications include: Coffee Life in Japan, (University of California Press, 2012); Perfectly Japanese: Making Family in an Era of Upheaval (University of California Press, 2002); The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America (Free Press, 1993; Dobunshoin, 1993; University of California Press, 1994); Comparing Cultures (with Sylvan Barnet, Bedford Books, 1995); The Japanese Educational Challenge, (Free Press, 1986, Princeton University Press 1992, and Shueisha, 1992); The Japanese Overseas, (Free Press, 1988); Human Conditions (with Robert LeVine, Routledge, 1987) and Challenging Tradition: Women in Japan, (Japan Society, 1992). In addition she has published two cookbooks, Cooking for Crowds (Basic Books, 1973) and Noodles Galore (Basic Books 1976) and has written many articles on food and culture.