Author pens book

Douglas Rojas

Reading all the accounts of the women raped and tortured during the Japanese occupation of China during World War II was the hardest part for writer Iris Chang.
Not only did Chang lose weight and some hair, but her editor also lost 10 pounds while reviewing her book.
“There is a whole part of World War II that people don’t have a clue about,” she said.
A California native, Chang, 30, is the author of “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II,” a book depicting the massacre of more than 260,000 Chinese civilians by the Japanese Army in 1937. As part of a national tour, Chang spoke briefly and signed books Thursday at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum.
“I am absolutely thrilled that there is so much interest in the Twin Cities about the Rape of Nanking,” Chang said to an audience of more than 75 people.
Chang’s book, which made The New York Times bestseller list for five months, has stirred national discussions about the tragedy. A historical event denied in the past by the Japanese government, the Rape of Nanking has not received too much attention in the United States, either.
Nanking, a city with a population of 650,000 and located close to the east coast of China, was occupied in December 1937 by the Japanese Army. Seven weeks later, many women had been raped and almost half of the population killed, decapitated and buried in massive graves. The tragedy is known in history as the Rape of Nanking due to the brutality of the occupation.
More people were killed in Nanking than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bombs, Chang said.
Japan occupied China until 1945, and between 19 million and 35 million people were killed during that time.
Chang hopes her book will be a first step to create a giant project so the history of the massacre won’t be forgotten.
Explaining why the massacre didn’t echo in the United States, history professor Edward Farmer said the United States was isolated from major world events before participating in World War II.
The attention on the war crimes trials after 1945, and the 1951 Korean war — in which China became the enemy and the United States allied with Japan — kept the Rape of Nanking an obscurity in U.S. history.
“It’s a very powerful account of this event, and how terrible it was,” Farmer said of the book.
For Chang, there is a personal component that inspired her to write the book.
Her grandparents barely escaped the occupation. Her father was born a year later and her mother three years after. In 1960, her parents came to the United States to go to college.
When Chang heard about the massacre for the first time, she was appalled that it hadn’t received more attention. Some of the survivors were dying already, and she felt she could not wait any longer to document the tragedy.
“I figured somebody has to take the initiative to write this book in English, so it could be made available to the American audience,” Chang said.
Chang based her research on thousands of documents, letters and diaries written by survivors, and westerners living in China at the time of the massacre.
“I have a lot of respect for Iris to come out and speak about it,” said Yu-Shih Chen, chairwoman of the Chinese language and literature program. Chinese intellectuals have also neglected the tragedy for political purposes. A book like this wouldn’t be published in China, she said.
Chang said Japan will apologize publicly to China for the tragedy next month. Japan already apologized to South Korea a few days ago, she said.