June 24 (Monday)

Tragic Chinese-American Activist
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Full Name: Iris Shun-Ru Chang
Born: March 28, 1968 in Princeton, New Jersey
Died: Nov. 9, 2004 in Los Gatos, California

Iris Chang was a Chinese-American historian, journalist and activist best known for her best-selling account of the Nanking Massacre, The Rape of Nanking (1997). The book was motivated in part by her grandparents’ stories about their escape from the massacre. Her first book, Thread of the Silkworm (1995), recounts the persecution of Chinese-American professor Tsien Hsue-shen (one of the founders of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) during the Red Scare in the 1950s. Her third book, The Chinese in America (2003), is a history of Chinese-Americans that argues that they are treated as perpetual outsiders.

Chang committed suicide in 2004, dealing a huge blow to survivors of the Nanking holocaust. Her suicide has been generally blamed on depression and psychologically damaging prescription medication. However, there is evidence that the U.S. government was persecuting her, perhaps because of her ongoing criticism of the Japanese government’s refusal to make amends for its war crimes. One of three suicide notes she left said in part...

“There are aspects of my experience in Louisville that I will never understand. Deep down I suspect that you may have more answers about this than I do. I can never shake my belief that I was being recruited, and later persecuted, by forces more powerful than I could have imagined. Whether it was the CIA or some other organization I will never know. As long as I am alive, these forces will never stop hounding me.

“Days before I left for Louisville I had a deep foreboding about my safety. I sensed suddenly threats to my own life: an eerie feeling that I was being followed in the streets, the white van parked outside my house, damaged mail arriving at my P.O. Box. I believe my detention at Norton Hospital was the government’s attempt to discredit me.”