Iris Chang (part of the #unsung heroes series)


Why must the insightful carry the greatest weight?

in their teeth like a bit crunching down until they break

teeth all over the place, white against the dark

enamel lasts long after we are gone

your words are never broken Iris

the love others held for you cannot be undone

by spectacle or ire, you are immune now

as beautiful as you were in life your memory not forgotten

eulogized in statues and prophecy, courage in bronze

such is the legacy of those who live to help others

you shone a light where no light had been shone

perhaps it invited unbidden demons and the silk worm

perhaps it made you mad and rageful in Louisville

who can say what fuse is lit, how long it burns or

whether others haunt us to our fatal choice?

but who would not feel horror when unveiled

the gruesome atrocity of what humans are capable

your Nanking chronicles, bravely revealed

blowing your silver whistle over lies

whether secret hands held you down

commanding, speak not, no more truth released

or you became absorbed in the tragedy you wrote

my hope is you gaze down, aware of the love held

your beautiful face gracing the cover of your mom’s book

a legacy unfurling, one step, two, ever more

you will always rise higher than you thought

such is the way of the guide

needing sometimes to turn from her gift back to the world

to see the beauty held in their own



“The woman who could not forget: Iris Chang before and beyond The Rape of Nanking by Ying-Ying Chang (mom) and The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang.”

part of the hash-tag #unsung (heroes) series.


39 thoughts on “Iris Chang (part of the #unsung heroes series)

  1. I just read her suicide notes she had left a day prior to her death…. she had much dedication…too much perhaps and overwhelmed her Psyche. Poor woman… but a great woman so many people come in extremes of duality..

    Thanks for sharing C

  2. I had to look her name up. The weight of the past was too much for her. She did what she could and more than she could bear. So terribly sad. Another tragedy that makes me ashamed to be a human being.

  3. Well said. I just finished the book her mother wrote, she felt two things could have killed her, one being the onslaught of medication she was prescribed and the adverse reaction(s) to this medication causing suicidality in so many and as yet not understood racial differences in dosage and response, or two, the Japanese far right-wing as backlash against the work she did. The former seems quite plausible as she had no prior mental illness history, it was sudden as it was violent and one may wonder, can someone be ‘made’ to become unwell like that? Iris certainly thought so, she left three suicide letters, in the last it talks of ‘who did this to her’ and whilst we may assume this the rantings of a mentally unhinged person, it begs the question if she’d spent a life without such ghosts … it is enough to assume the weight of her work sent her mad? I don’t know, but she came from incredible people and I am touched deeply by her struggle and her search of truth. xo

  4. Right? I wonder so much if indeed she was driven to this, by ‘dark forces’ or something akin to that, or whether she was poisoned, by the anti-depressants. It’s all really interesting and tragic, but mostly her book on Nanking broke the secrets of the atrocities and for that I admire her enormously.

  5. Thank you so much. My friend Manuel and I began the ‘unsung heroes’ with my last (old) blog and wrote of those people we felt were over-looked or ‘not sung about’ and I remembered this and began to write again on this subject. So often we forget, it is the most ordinary person who leaves the greatest legacy.

  6. The truth is probably a mixture of all those things. She was pushed to the edge certainly. Who, if anyone was behind it is guesswork. But the work she did can’t have left no mark at all. Enough to make her kill herself? Doubtful.

  7. Well said. I wonder about what it takes to push someone … I expect the wrong medication can turn anyone insane. Medication has a lot to answer for. They know it can do this but they do little by way of warning. In the book her mom talks of her being on eight times the recommended dose. Agreed, the work alone wouldn’t have, she had guts to look at these things but it probably took its toll.

  8. Wow that’s kind. I am not ‘that’ aware but I try to be aware and I try to keep my eyes open instead of closed as so many seem to do these days! Thank you so much for appreciating my efforts that is so encouraging.

  9. Hi, thanks for writing me! I just read it, and it is very worthy, written by her mom, about her life and experiences having been the author of The Rape of Nanking, and it is every bit worthwhile reading, her mom really loved her and it’s a beautiful eulogy to her daughter. I’m going to read your link now!

  10. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t know that much about her, other than the Rape of Nanking book, which I read a long time ago when I was working on my Encyclopedia of Rape. I didn’t know about her mom’s book.

  11. I read her book years ago, which was insightful and full of humanistic perspectives, revealing not just atrocities but the bigger picture surround human nature. I was blown away. Years later i still think about the section about retired Japanese soldiers reflecting on the depth of their regrets and their circumstances. I think it was a really important book in my opinion. Thanks for writing this.

  12. Dear Tsuki, you are very welcome I’m really appreciative of you reading this. Like you, i wonder how they must have come to terms, and what synergy causes these atrocities time and again. Thank you♡

  13. I think it’s alot of things in play, peer pressure, brain washing, loyalty (as warped as it sounds ). Truth is, war does terrible things to human beings and in those situations, logic and reason can hardly be found. Only the strongest of men prevail in these situations.

  14. I often think those things too. I think back to that experiment I read about, where ‘normal’ people are ‘told’ to do things to someone and in the end they all cross the line and would have hurt someone (it’s faked) and when asked why, they couldn’t say (peer pressure?) but I recall it was something to do with electric shock and some simulated test where because of the ‘authority’ of those asking them, they would electrocute someone and hurt them just because they were told to. Of course some did not. I would like to think I would not. But it does beg the question.

  15. PS – agreed about loyalty that’s mad isn’t it? I mean I get it though, when we are teens we do things for friends out of loyalty that go against what we believe, it’s much the same. You are good at psychology no wonder, I can see that deep understanding in your poetry.

  16. I try to understand humans 🙂 I’m an artist btw so i spend alot of time observing other people and thinking about human behaviors

  17. Oh–yeah, I guess if you don’t know me and what I do, it’s kind of a weird fit with my poetry.
    It was a reference book that covered rape and rape-related issues from ancient times to the present.
    I’m currently working on two reference books on rape. One is encyclopedia of long-form entries on various topics such as date rape, intimate partner rape, etc. (not history though, unfortunately). The other is a collection of articles that discuss survivors and rape culture in an international perspective. Again, it’s contemporary, not historical. They should both be out this year, if the contributors come though, but that’s a whole other story!

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