Iris Chang, ‘The Rape of Nanking’ Author, Found Dead

‘The Rape of Nanking’ author is found dead (Mercury News)

Iris Chang, the bestselling Bay Area author whose book on Japanese atrocities in China during World War II catapulted her to fame and prominence, was found dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 36. Chang drove down a road south of Los Gatos and shot herself in her car, authorities said.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s Deputy Terrance Helm said a motorist driving Tuesday morning on Highway 17 south of the Cats restaurant in an unincorporated area near Los Gatos noticed a car a short distance down a private water district road. He pulled over to check on the vehicle and called 911. Investigators found a frontier-type six-gun and a note in the car, according to sources with knowledge of the case. The official cause of death was pending.

Chang suffered a breakdown and was hospitalized during a recent trip researching her fourth book about U.S. soldiers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II, her former editor and agent Susan Rabiner told the Associated Press. Chang continued to suffer from depression after she was released from the hospital. In a note to her family, she asked to be remembered as the person she was before she became ill — “engaged with life, committed to her causes, her writing and her family,” Rabiner said.

Sad and bizarre.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jade says:

    Sad… I’ve read ‘The Rape of Nanking’ — I wonder if all the research she’s done is what made her ill.

  2. Wow. Very troubling. I remember seeing her on Hardball once, when the Nanking book came out. Sad.

  3. Tig says:

    What? You use the word “rape” in the title and then don’t place within your post the obligatory message: “Authorities say there was no evidence of sexual assualt.”

    OK, now the above comment was “inane” and “snarky.” I don’t necessarily guarantee “good” or even “worthwhile.”

  4. Attila Girl says:

    This is terrible. That book is sitting in my house (on my husband’s bookcase, of course). I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it, much less research/write that and three other books that were surely just as tough.

    If nothing else, she performed a vital service to history. As with the Holocaust, this is something the world needs to know about.

    She was a brave woman: I assume she was eventually overwhelmed by the tragic quality of her subject matter.

  5. DC Loser says:

    The only one of Iris Chang’s work I read is “Thread of the Silkworm” due to my interest in Qian Xuesen, the father of China’s missile program. Fascinating story and still the best work on this subject in the wwest. I can’t bring myself to read “Rape” because of the subject (just as I couldn’t force myself to get throught the holocaust chapter of the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich).