Memoir About My Wife Iris Chang (Excerpt)
By Brett Douglas
When I first met my wife Iris Chang in October of 1988, she was a beautiful, charming girl who was full of life. I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone had told me she would someday write a best-selling book that would be translated into 15 languages. What does surprise me is that I am now writing an epilogue to The Rape of Nanking seven years after her death.
With the energy, passion, and drive that Iris showed at the age of thirty, I thought it was likely she would be writing great books well in her eighties or nineties. When we met neither of us had dated a few times, but we soon both knew we were a perfect match. We were blessed to have sixteen happy years together.
At the time of this writing, two books have been published about Iris’ life: Finding Iris Chang by Paula Kamen and The Woman Who Could Not Forget by her mother, Ying-Ying Chang. These are both good books, and I encourage those who want to learn more about Iris to read them. Ying-Ying Chang’s The Woman Who Could Not Forget provides a detailed deion of Iris’ entire life, and I have no desire to try to improve upon that book. Instead I’ll focus on a few factors I believe led to her success.
Iris attended the University of Illinois’ High School. The high school has produced several Nobel Prize winners and many other graduates who went on to achieve extraordinary success. Iris was on track to graduate in just over three years, but she changed her major to journalism when she was a few hours short of a degree. At the time, it was relatively rare for a girl to study Math and Computer Science, it was rare for someone to complete the program that quickly, and it was extremely rare for someone who had completed the program so easily to change majors at the very end.
Iris soon won internship at Newsweek, the Associated Press, and the Chicago Tribune. Later she was admitted to the prestigious Writing Seminar program at Johns Hopkins University. While she was there, at the age of only twenty-two, she met her editor, and later her agent, Susan Rabiner. Susan gave her a topic, and Iris started research on her first book The Thread of the Silkworm.
Along with her beauty, her intelligence, and her education, two other factors contributed greatly to Iris success. She was never shy about asking someone, no matter how famous, for help or advice and she was always trying to improve herself. For instance, in 1991, Iris was very nervous about the prospect of giving a short toast in front of two hundred people at our wedding reception. Yet she consciously worked at public speaking so that by the time The Rape of Nanking was published in 1997, she could hold the attention of a thousand people for an hour or longer while she talked about her research and her books.
Iris attended a conference in Cupertino, California late in 1994 where she saw photos from the Rape of Nanking. Many people believe that Iris saw the photos and decided then and there that she had to write a book on the atrocity. But Iris had heard stories about the Rape of Nanking from her parents and grandparents. She told me shortly after we started dating in October 1988 that it was of her desire to write a book about the Nanking Massacre. As soon as she completed the final draft of her first book The Thread of the Silkworm, she determined that Japan’s assault on Nanking was the most promising topic for her second book, and so she started her research.
During the first ten years of our relationship, it was a true pleasure to watch Iris build herself from a sometimes shy and introverted person into “Super Iris”, the famous author and historian who could keep audiences enthralled with her speeches and win debates on national television. It was much sadder to see “Super Iris” rapidly succumb to mental illness during the summer of 2004.
著名美籍华裔作家张纯如（Iris Chang）的丈夫。张纯如于2004年11月9日因抑郁吞枪自杀，年仅36岁。本文节选自道格拉斯为张纯如代表作 《南京大屠杀：被遗忘的二战浩劫》（The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II）2011年再版写的后记。