JCMMD

DON"T PANIC

Tragic Story

Posted by jcmaziquemd on March 28, 2011

Today is the birthday of Iris Chang, (books by this author) author and journalist, born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1968 and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Her father, Shau-Jin, is a theoretical physicist, and her mother, Ying-Ying, is a biochemist. Iris, a talkative but serious child, began her writing career at a young age: inspired by "Dear Abby," she started an advice column while in elementary school. At 10, she won first prize in a "young author" competition, and was always writing and publishing something in high school. She wrote volumes of poetry into red leather-bound books, each poem meticulously dated. In college, she studied journalism and embarked on a career first as a stringer for The New York Times, then worked for Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune. She drove herself very hard, writing two or three articles a day, but not eating or sleeping well while she was working.

She earned a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate Writing Seminar, and got a book deal from Harper Collins while she was still at school, at the age of 22. Her first book, Thread of the Silkworm, about a Chinese physicist, was published in 1995. It was received well, but didn’t sell too many copies.

She is best known for her books about Asian and Chinese-American history. In 1994, at a conference in Cupertino, California, she was gripped by a display about the Nanking war crimes committed against a Chinese village by the Japanese army. She had heard much about the massacre from her grandparents, who had escaped it 60 years before, but the poster-sized pictures affected her deeply; she later wrote: "In a single blinding moment I recognized the fragility of not just life but the human experience itself … I was suddenly in a panic that this … reversion in human social evolution would be reduced to a footnote of history … unless someone forced the world to remember it." She threw herself into the project, not eating or sleeping, finding it hard to separate herself from the material. Her second book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, was published in 1997, when Chang was only 29, and sold half a million copies. After that, she began an unsuccessful campaign to elicit an apology from the Japanese government for the atrocities committed by the Imperial Army against the Chinese, even challenging the Japanese ambassador to a debate on The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour.

She followed this book with another, The Chinese in America: A Narrative History (2003), and even though many of the stories involved poverty and prejudice, she told her mother that working on it was like a vacation after The Rape of Nanking.

In 2004, deep in research for her fourth book on the Bataan Death March, Chang had a nervous breakdown, working obsessively while trying to be the perfect mother to her young son, and not sleeping for days at a time. Deeply affected by the nature of her research, she again found it difficult to separate herself from her subject. While in Louisville to interview Bataan survivors, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital, where they medicated her for transient psychosis and suspected bipolar disorder. Back home, she stopped taking her medication because it made her groggy, and though she was in therapy and had a plan to make herself well, she was unable to overcome her illness. She committed suicide not far from her home in San Jose, California, in November 2004.

Today is the birthday of Iris Chang, (books by this author) author and journalist, born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1968 and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Her father, Shau-Jin, is a theoretical physicist, and her mother, Ying-Ying, is a biochemist. Iris, a talkative but serious child, began her writing career at a young age: inspired by "Dear Abby," she started an advice column while in elementary school. At 10, she won first prize in a "young author" competition, and was always writing and publishing something in high school. She wrote volumes of poetry into red leather-bound books, each poem meticulously dated. In college, she studied journalism and embarked on a career first as a stringer for The New York Times, then worked for Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune. She drove herself very hard, writing two or three articles a day, but not eating or sleeping well while she was working.

She earned a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate Writing Seminar, and got a book deal from Harper Collins while she was still at school, at the age of 22. Her first book, Thread of the Silkworm, about a Chinese physicist, was published in 1995. It was received well, but didn’t sell too many copies.

She is best known for her books about Asian and Chinese-American history. In 1994, at a conference in Cupertino, California, she was gripped by a display about the Nanking war crimes committed against a Chinese village by the Japanese army. She had heard much about the massacre from her grandparents, who had escaped it 60 years before, but the poster-sized pictures affected her deeply; she later wrote: "In a single blinding moment I recognized the fragility of not just life but the human experience itself … I was suddenly in a panic that this … reversion in human social evolution would be reduced to a footnote of history … unless someone forced the world to remember it." She threw herself into the project, not eating or sleeping, finding it hard to separate herself from the material. Her second book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, was published in 1997, when Chang was only 29, and sold half a million copies. After that, she began an unsuccessful campaign to elicit an apology from the Japanese government for the atrocities committed by the Imperial Army against the Chinese, even challenging the Japanese ambassador to a debate on The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour.

She followed this book with another, The Chinese in America: A Narrative History (2003), and even though many of the stories involved poverty and prejudice, she told her mother that working on it was like a vacation after The Rape of Nanking.

In 2004, deep in research for her fourth book on the Bataan Death March, Chang had a nervous breakdown, working obsessively while trying to be the perfect mother to her young son, and not sleeping for days at a time. Deeply affected by the nature of her research, she again found it difficult to separate herself from her subject. While in Louisville to interview Bataan survivors, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital, where they medicated her for transient psychosis and suspected bipolar disorder. Back home, she stopped taking her medication because it made her groggy, and though she was in therapy and had a plan to make herself well, she was unable to overcome her illness. She committed suicide not far from her home in San Jose, California, in November 2004.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: