Iris Chang and Her Unfinished Dream

San Francisco Public Library exhibition documents the life of the late author and her work exposing the truth of the Nanking Massacre; on view in the Chinese Center, Main Library, October 2 - December 2, 2010

At the age of 26, Iris Chang set out to discover the long-buried truth of the events leading up to and during the Rape of Nanking, a six-week period in World War II during which the Japanese Imperial Army captured the old Chinese capital and sought to establish control of the city. Their actions were devastating: 300,000 murders, 80,000 rapes, entire buildings and homes looted and destroyed.

Like many Asian American families, Iris heard stories of these atrocities while growing up; yet she could find almost no information in her grade school library or the city library in Illinois.  Iris Chang confronted this dilemma directly by putting her journalism and research skills to work.  With a single-minded determination to discover the long-buried truth, she traveled to China, to the site of the Nanjing Massacre, to investigate for herself. The result of her efforts became a global best-seller, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.

Her book immediately sparked interest on the topic and lead her on numerous book tours, TV interviews, and public talks. It also invited controversy and sadness into her life.  On Nov. 9, 2004 after suffering from depression, Iris took her own life. She was 36 years old.

Iris dedicated her life to exposing the truth, and in the process opened the eyes of millions of people. But there is little known about her aside from her book and her suicide.  Not much is known about this beautiful, young woman whose intelligence and bravery led her to undertake such emotional research and campaign for truth. What were her personal reasons for doing this work? Who was Iris as a person? Also, what impact has Iris’s work had on educating the public about the Rape of Nanking and bringing about reconciliation for the victims and victimizers?

At the six-year anniversary of her death, the San Francisco Public Library and the Rape of Nanking Redress Coalition invite the public to learn about this young woman’s life and examine the moral courage it takes for one person to seek out the truth. The exhibition, Iris Chang and Her Unfinished Dream, will be on view October. 2 to December 2, at the Chinese Center, Third Floor, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street.

In the exhibit, library visitors can also preview a memoir on Iris written by her mother, Ying-Ying Chang, The Woman Who Could Not Forget, Iris Chang Before and Beyond The Rape of Nanking, A Memoir (Pegasus Books). The book is about Iris’s life from a mother's perspective from her birth to her untimely death. It will be published in May 2011. 

Related Program:

Film Screening: Iris Chang--The Rape of Nanking, followed by Q & A with Iris Chang’s parents and Dr. Peter Stanek, president of the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of World War II in Asia.
Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m
Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library

This full length docudrama (103 minutes, in English with Chinese subtitles, 2007)  made for the 70th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre, tells the compelling and courageous life story of Iris Chang, a young woman who at age 26 dedicated her life to teaching the world about the forgotten holocaust in World War II.  

Those who have read or heard about Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, and wish to know about its author and how she came to write this book, will find this award-winning docudrama a revelation. The interweaving of documentary footage, surviving victims’ testimonies, and newly discovered documents combined with Iris Chang’s passion, courage and single-minded devotion to truth and justice make this film a compelling experience. For those unfamiliar with the Asia Pacific War, the film provides ample background information on the conflict during this period of history with its devastating consequences on the victims—not only in China but the whole of East and Southeast Asia. The film shown here takes a patient and disciplined look at Iris, her family, and the history she sought to expose.  This is not only an important history lesson; it is also a call to action, that each one of us must undertake our own personal mission to bring light to the truth.  Only then can all nations regain the peace and harmony that we all demand.

All programs at the Library are free. For more information, please call (415) 557-4277.

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