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The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking- A Memoir Hardcover – May 15, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus (May 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605981729
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605981727
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“…Ying-Ying Chang has created a moving and beautiful tribute to her daughter.” —Booklist

“Ying-Ying Chang, a Harvard-trained biochemist, wants to give an accounting of her daughter’s life and the events leading up to her death…She gives some credence to a possible conspiracy…” —Publisher Weekly

“A caring and graceful memoir that deserves wide attention. Moving and superb.” —Jim Lehrer, Host of PBS Newshour

“In this brave memoir, you will share in the celebration of a life, allowing us to experience her presence again. Full of courage and conviction, full of life.” —Richard Rhodes, from the Introduction
“This is a brave and serious book, a worthy memorial to a brave and serious daughter.” —Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman

“Read this book and you will know Iris Chang as the courageous woman she was.” —James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Father; Flyboys; The Imperial Cruise

“Hard work, true grit: ‘The Woman Who Could Not Forget’ ultimately isn't a sad story, but rather a celebration of Iris's remarkable life.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Ying-Ying had accomplished what she set out to do. Iris Chang will not be forgotten.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“The memoir's introduction is by Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who was impressed by the determination of Chang's mother to celebrate her daughter's life.” —San Jose Mercury News

“Ying-Ying Chang provides new insights into the pressures that the world put on Iris, who…came not only to fear for her own safety but for that of her loved ones.” —The Atlantic

“…this book is a powerfully written page-turner that will touch the heart of every reader.” —Eamonn Fingleton, Tokyo-based author of Unsustainable: How Economic Dogma Is Destroying American Prosperity

“Iris Chang's courage, her tenacity and conviction reverberate through this excellent biography.” —Mo Hayder, author of Birdman; The Devil of Nanking.

“…intimate portrait of a brilliant historian and a beloved daughter.” —Ted Leonsis, producer of the film Nanking and author of The Business of Happiness

“…a riveting portrayal of a celebrated writer, and a compassionate and remarkable woman." —Bill Guttentag, director of the film Nanking and author of Boulevard

“In these heartfelt pages, Prof. Chang's own memories advance the cause of justice to which Iris devoted her life.” —David Henry Hwang, author of M. Butterfly; FOB

“This beautiful and courageous memoir is the gift of a mother’s love and has a storyteller’s fine detail...” —Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

"The Woman Who Could Not Forget is the most moving and powerful book I've read in the last ten years. I stayed up all night reading it --I could not put it down.  It's about an extraordinary woman whose legacy lives on, but it's also a heartbreaking mother-daughter love story. After all the sensationalist media speculation, it was shocking to learn the truth. This book holds more than one important lesson for us all." Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

About the Author

Ying-Ying Chang is the mother of Iris Chang. She has a PhD from Harvard in biochemistry and was a research associate professor of microbiology at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with her husband, Shau-Jin, a physics professor. She lives in San Jose, California and is on the board of the Iris Chang Memorial Fund.

Richard Rhodes is the author or editor of twenty-three books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award; and Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, which was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in San Francisco.

More About the Author

Ying-Ying Chang was born in China's wartime capital, Chungking, in 1940 and moved to Taiwan with her parents to escape from the Communists during the 1949 civil war. She grew up in the island and graduated from National Taiwan University in 1962. Ying-Ying came to the U.S. for graduate studies and received her Ph. D. in Biological Chemistry from Harvard University in 1967. She married Dr. Shau-Jin Chang, a Harvard physicist in 1964.

After two years post-doctoral work at Princeton University, Ying-Ying and her husband started a teaching and research career spanning for more than three decades at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in 1969 with Ying-Ying in the Department of Microbiology and Shau-Jin in Department of Physics. In 2002, they moved to San Jose, California after retiring from the University and live there ever since.

Ying-Ying has published a number of scientific papers in journals, such as Science, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Bacteriology, Proceedings of National Academy of Science U. S. A.

Their first child, the late celebrity author Iris Chang, was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1968. In 1997, Iris published her best known international bestseller "The Rape of Nanking, The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II."

After Iris' untimely death in 2004, Ying-Ying and Shau-Jin have channeled their energy into the preservation of the history of World War II in Asia. They co-founded the Iris Chang Memorial Fund in 2006 to honor their beloved daughter.

In the past several years, Ying-Ying and Shau-Jin have been invited by numerous groups and organizations in North America and China to speak and take part in activities related to their daughter's work and the Sino-Japanese war history.

Ying-Ying and her husband love travel and hiking. "The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond The Rape of Nanking" is Ying-Ying's memoir about the life of her beloved daughter.

Articles about Ying-Ying can be found by the links:

The real healing begins for mother of Iris Chang
By San Jose Mercury News columnist, L. A. Chung, published on January 17, 2007 in the Mercury News:

Reflections on Nanking Massacre after 70 years of Denial
In memory of our daughter Iris Chang
By Ying-Ying Chang
In Harvard Asia Pacific Review, Vol. 9, No. 2. spring 2008

Iris Chang's mother dedicates herself to daughter's vision
By Ken McLaughlin in the San Jose Mercury News (April 1, 2009):

More "Ying-Ying Chang" information can be found at

More "Iris Chang" information is available at

Customer Reviews

As soon as I started to read this book, I found it hard to put it down.
This book provides a valuable, deeper understanding of Iris Chang as a person, a writer, a historian, a daughter, and a mother.
Don M. Tow
This book is unique in the sense that a grieving mother writes a biography for a world-renowned daughter.
Y. S. Chin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Don M. Tow on May 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"To give a voice to the voiceless and to live her life for others" was the essence of Iris Chang's life. In her beautiful memoir "The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond 'The Rape of Nanking'," Dr. Ying-Ying Chang, Iris' mother, used her intimate knowledge of her daughter and extensive collections of letters, emails, and conversations between mother and daughter to reconstruct Iris' short but courageous life and her tragic death. Iris' book "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II" almost single-handedly retrieved the Rape of Nanking from the forgotten attic of history and placed it in the forefront of international political discourse. She gave voice to the thousands and thousands of victims who either died forgotten or survived in shame and misery. She endured suffering in her own life and unjustified attacks from the ultra-right wing in Japan, as well as in the U.S. Ultimately she gave her own life so that others' lives can be enriched.

In spite of her meticulous research for her Nanking book which was praised by numerous scholars as a historical gem, she was attacked by various right-wing extremists and even from the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. Iris was so outraged and asked "Can you imagine what would happen if a German ambassador to the U.S. made a parallel statement about a book on the Holocaust?" So she challenged Ambassador Saito to a public debate. The Japanese political and economic power structure also almost caused "Newsweek" to back out of a contract for a serial publication of Iris' book.

The passion, dedication, and vision shown in Iris' work and life inspired many people.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Y. S. Chin on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is unique in the sense that a grieving mother writes a biography for a world-renowned daughter. While Iris was an author, historian, and journalist, her mother is a Harvard educated biochemist with English as second language. It takes great courage and resolve for a scientist to embark on such a mission. The narratives of upbringing of her children resonate with many of us who came to the US to pursue advanced studies and ended up staying here, raising a family. The author and her husband's ways of nurturing their children with guidance, allowing the children to have freedom to explore and develop their own interests are in sharp contrast to the iron-hand strategy adopted by tiger mom. The book shows that Asian mothers or mothers around the world do have different approach and philosophy of raising their children. I was very moved by the detailed stories of their family life and particularly the fact that Iris had maintained such a close and loving relationship with her mother. I personally consider that a mother-daughter relationship evolving into a trusted friendship is the envy of all mothers. Iris's achievements are well recognized and the significant ones are described in detail in the book. I am sure that Iris's son Christopher will appreciate it as he grows up. He will not only know his mother but will also be very proud of her as well. The book also shows us how the author gets up after being knocked down by such an unspeakable tragedy and turns the experience into a positive one by utilizing her research skill and training in science to study the drugs for depression, channeling her energy to the promotion of social justice and human rights - a cause to which Iris had passionately dedicated. This is a truly remarkable and inspiring book and a loving tribute to an accomplished daughter.

Y. S. Chin, Los Altos, Ca
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Wenshan on July 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After reading Dr. Chang Ying Ying's book "The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang before and beyond the Rape of Nanking- a Memoir ", I felt terribly drained! How I wish time could be reversed that many of us could have done it all over again. A mother, probably my age, after experiencing the heart wrenching pain of losing her daughter, Iris, wrote down the journey she accompanied her daughter for her young thirty-six years.

I believe many of us raised our children during the same period of time as Dr. Chang. That was the time between Dr. Spock and Tiger Mom, between the Hippie and the Yuppie. As first generation immigrants coming to this land of opportunity, we raised our children to treasure our traditional value, and, in the meantime, tried to have them equipped to excel in this global village. We might have said to them: "You can choose any career, as long as it makes you happy." Deep down, we are dropping hints that how admirably the children of the Joneses are doing. Our children bear more than their share of pressure. It took great courage and intelligence for them to break away from such expectation and bondage.

Iris Chang is such a woman. Being a journalist, she obviously had more courage and perseverance than her peers to face the challenge. For any writing project, she would not bow to the environment, neither yield to any pressure. She would travel thousands of miles, read through piles of documents; suffer over many sleepless evenings, go great lengths to perfect her work. Iris rose to stardom as her book "The Rape of Nanking" reached and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for several months. Without her endeavor, the Nanking massacre during the WW II would have remained a tragic secret under the smoke screen of many disguises and lies.
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