Thursday, November 11, 2004

Remembering Iris Chang

I know that today's big news is Arafat's death, but I wanted to take a quick moment to remember historian Iris Chang, who died yesterday. Chang is best-known for her 1997 book The Rape of Nanking which told the story of the 300,000 people who were tortured, raped, and murdered when the Japanese took Nanking (also spelled: Nanjing). A quick look around the web suggests that her claims about Japanese atrocities at Nanking are controversial, though many of the anti-Chang websites I visited were of questionable credibility. This site, in contrast, is more balanced, and has a useful bibliography, and external links.

Chang was young, and her writing was very promising. But she was also, the death-notices point out, deeply depressed.

n 1997, Chang published the bestselling "The Rape of Nan-king," which described the rape, torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers during the 1930s. "The Chinese in America," published last year, is a history of Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the United States.

Chang suffered a breakdown during researching for her fourth book about U.S. soldiers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II.

Chang continued to suffer from depression after she was released from the hospital. In a note to her family, she asked to be remembered as the person she was before she became ill - "engaged with life, committed to her causes, her writing and her family."

1 comment:

sepoy said...

It is, indeed, terribly sad. There is a moving tribute to her by Steve Clemons. The anti-Chang crowd was vociferous when the book came out but has simmered away by now.
She dared to defy a nation's collective amnesia by confronting it with the truth. She was trained as a journalist, but her book became a standard in history courses.
Suicide is such a terrible thing to comprehend.