Iris Chang: Her Busy Schedule as Historian and Social Critic

Historians in the News

Gerald P. Merrell, in the Baltimore Sun (April 15, 2004):

Iris Chang was in another strange room, this time at the Fairmont in Kansas City, just the fourth hotel she'll stop at in a dozen states in five weeks.
In a few minutes it would be 11 p.m., and, thankfully, her workday was completed.

Things are not always so frenzied for her. Still, there's a whirlwind quality to Chang's life.

It's been that way since she unexpectedly exploded into national prominence seven years ago with her chilling account in The Rape of Nanking of atrocities against hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

She has logged more miles and given more talks in that time than most people do in a lifetime. Chang is currently mid-way through a schedule that includes appearances in Dallas, New York City, St. Louis, Boston, Denver and San Francisco, just to mention a third of them.

Tonight, Chang will speak at the University of Baltimore's M. Scot Kaufman Auditorium.

She is in demand as more than an author peddling her latest work, though Chang does that, too. Right now, that would be the just-released paperback version of her third volume, The Chinese in America, a 400-plus page epic spanning 150 years of U.S. history.

But she's also in demand as a historian, an advocate of social justice and as a voice for the Chinese everywhere.

Chang, though acknowledging she's all those things, prefers to think of herself as a "storyteller," a craft honed in the Johns Hopkins University's writing seminars program.

A writer, she says, can help change the world, and that, at least in part, will be her message tonight.

"I think my role is that of a storyteller and somebody who is trying to combat injustice," Chang says. "I really do see myself more as working in the framework of civil rights issues.

"In the role of the storyteller," she adds, "one can bring to light acts of injustice. One important step in preventing these atrocities is informing the people."

Atrocities and the search for justice are favorite themes of Chang.

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