Iris Shun-Ru Chang (張純如) was an award-winning Chinese-American journalist, political activist, and acclaimed author. The daughter of Ying-Ying (盈盈) and Dr. Shau-Jin (紹進) Chang, she was born in Princeton, New Jersey and grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. After graduating from Uni High in 1985, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. As a freelance journalist, she wrote over six front-page articles for the New York Times over just one year.
After some time working at the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune, Chang completed a Master of Arts in Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and started her career as an author and historian focusing on Sino-American and Chinese history as well as human rights issues. In December 1997, she published The Rape of Nanking, which was the first English-language narrative of the Nanking Massacre in which Japanese soldiers brutally raped, pillaged, murdered, and committed unspeakable atrocities against hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese citizens. The Rape of Nanking remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for several months, becoming a New York Times “Notable Book.”
Iris Chang received several other awards, including the Woman of the Year award from the Organization of Chinese Americans, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Program on Peace and International Cooperation Award. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and has been featured on television and radio, including Good Morning America, Nightline, the Jim Lehrer News Hour, and the front cover of the prestigious Reader’s Digest.
She wrote several other books, including Thread of the Silkworm, which tells the ironic story of Dr. Tsien Hsue-shen, an American nuclear scientist who was branded a Communist and deported to China—only to start China’s robust nuclear weapons program. Her final book entitled The Chinese in America: A Narrative History focused on Chinese immigrants in America and their contributions to American culture over the past 150 years.
She passed away in 2004 in San Jose, California. A memorial celebrating her profound life and legacy was dedicated in her ancestral hometown of Huai’an (淮安), Jiangsu (江蘇) Province, and she is survived by her husband Bretton Lee Douglas and her only son Christopher. We at Uni High will never forget the legacy of Iris Chang, and in 2006, the Iris Chang & Peter Kolodziej Writing Awards were established in memoriam of Iris Chang and her classmate Peter Kolodziej, celebrating excellence in writing fiction and nonfiction.