BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang + Author Interview [in Bloomsbury Review]

Iris ChangA Thoroughly American History: A Talk with Historian Iris Chang

While Iris Chang was writing her international best-seller, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, her hair started falling out. Small wonder, as she spent the majority of her waking hours researching and recording one of the most atrocious periods in human history: the Japanese Imperial Army’s slaughter, rape, and torture of more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers in December 1937.

Published on the 60th anniversary of the massacre, the book – her second – put Chang on magazine covers, newspaper headlines, radio talk shows, and television spots. That success gave her the opportunity to meet Asian Americans across the country, to share their experiences and hear their stories. Together with her own family’s immigrant memories, these testimonials gave the Princeton, New Jersey-born Chang her next book project.

Compared with Nanking, Chang says, writing The Chinese in America: A Narrative History “was like a vacation.” Published earlier this year, the book carefully traces the two-century evolution of an American people through the interwoven history of China and the United States. Chang relies on written memoirs, recorded oral histories, countless interviews, and pieces of her own family’s narratives to create a thoroughly American history. She offers a thought-provoking overview of the integral role the Chinese have played in American history – proving that America as we know it could not possibly exist without the contributions of Americans of Chinese descent.  …[click here for more]

Author interview: The Bloomsbury Review, September/October 2003

Tidbit: A little over a year after this piece was published, I found out that Iris Chang committed suicide. She was just 36. The inadequate word ‘shock’ doesn’t begin to describe my reaction when I found out. I wrote a piece for the November 19, 2004 issue of AsianWeek a couple of nights later. It went something like this …

Living with Loss
I like to think that when you Google “Iris Chang” and see that the first hit is her personal website, I had a little something to do with that. … Early in one of our conversations, the topic of unreliable technology came up and Iris Chang mentioned that Google-ing herself did not result in her website being listed as the first hit or even on the first page of results. She was quite irked by that. I put her in touch with a Google muckety-muck, and soon thereafter I got a thank-you call from Chang.

Sitting in my virtual inbox is a note from that same Google-buddy who had just heard the news – “everything about it is so sad,” he writes. Because now when you type in, the screen goes black except for the stark white words, “In Memory of Iris Chang, 1968 – 2004.”

Just last week, it used to be a portal into a lively interactive site, highlighting the accomplishments, thoughts and hopes of a vibrant young woman committed to giving voice to those who had been unjustly treated by their fellow man. Ironically, that overwhelming empathy for such human suffering – the empathy that made her a gifted storyteller – is perhaps what tragically killed her. …[click here to read more]

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2003


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