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Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Amibition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  192 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking and human rights activist, shocked the world when she committed suicide in 2004 at age thirty-six. Long-time friend Paula Kamen fills in the gaps in Changs personal transformation.
Audio CD, 5 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 382)
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Bastian Greshake
Jan 13, 2016 Bastian Greshake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
After binging on The Rape of Nanking recently, I was fascinated by the life (and death) of Iris Chang. This book gives seems to give a really good summary of both, in terms of her life achievements, the problems she faced and the things she had to struggle with.

At the same time the book gives some background on the origin of The Rape of Nanking and how mental health is an especially severe problem in Asian communities.

Recommended for: People who have read something by Chang and want to know mo
Feb 18, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
"Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind" by Paula Kamen is an entirely different kind of mystery than yesterday's "Echoes." For starters, it's non-fiction; but it's an equally compelling page-turner with some surprising revelations at the end of the story — a literary, rather than a criminal, investigation.

Kamen became friends with Chang after convincing her to switch majors from computer science to journalism; she then found herself eating Chang's dust a
Aug 26, 2008 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I considered giving this book a 5 because I really do think it was comprehesive in its treatment of Chang's life and surrounding suicide, but there was something a little self-indulgent about the writing and the fact that the author wasa little too close to her subject, and clearly felt so much guilt about Chang's death. But, for those who don't know...Iris Chang was the best-selling author of The Rape of Nanking, a journalistic account of the 1937 Japanese invasion of the ancient Chinese city o ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Adriana rated it it was ok
I'd read an article in Salon, by the same author, about Iris Chang's death and questions surrounding it. However, this book-long exploration of the same topic felt rushed and sloppy. There were actually places in the book where I thought, Where was the editor?? There was a self-consciousness to this book that did the woman and her story a disservice. For instance, the writer included whole chunks of interviews--whether or not all the material was relevant or interesting, and often without proces ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Kara rated it liked it
Kamen comes at this story from the standpoint of a jealous casual friend, which is an extremely strange place from which to narrate a biography. Chang wasn't perfect and it's alright for a biographer to illuminate those facets of their subject, but this reader could never get past the fact that Kamen seemed to take some satisfaction from highlighting Chang's shortcomings, especially her social awkwardness. This book would have been better as a long newspaper or magazine article.
C.M. Mayo
Feb 28, 2011 C.M. Mayo rated it it was amazing
Iris Chang was the author of three books, including the blockbuster The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII. Kamen, also an accomplished journalist and author of four books, was first Iris's rival at the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana and then, for many years, an admiring and close friend. Kamen's is a book by a writer about a writer, or rather, the biography of a rich and evolving writerly friendship with a violent end, for Iris Chang was found shot to death in a car by th ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind, by Paula Kamen, Narrated by Bernadette Dunn, Produced by Blackstone Audio, Downloaded from

Iris Chang in her short life wrote three books about Chinese history. Two of them involved issues for people from China as immigrants to America. The book for which she was best known, and which became a best seller, was The Rape of Nanking, detailing for the first time, the horrendous massacre over a two-month per
Mar 01, 2008 Sumi rated it liked it
This is an intimate and startling look into an activist's impressive, tragic life. I read Iris's book "The Rape of Nanking" when I was in college and remember feeling moved by her writing and shocked by the historical accounts of the Japanese occupation of Nanking during WW II. Even though I never read her other stuff I was saddened when I heard about her suicide. She was 36, successful, and had left behind a 2-year-old. It was strange. When this book came out, I was immediately intrigued. I was ...more
May 12, 2013 Louise rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, china
I hope this is not the last word on Iris Chang.

In a precursive phone call Iris told her "friend", Paula Kamen (who found her exhausting), to tell everyone what she was like "before this happened." I didn't count, but there were probably more pages about "this" and its aftermath, than what she was like before it. Kamen's book does not fulfill her friend's request.

Kamen had, and probably still has, a wonderful opportunity to provide insight. Unfortunately she gives us more about how she reacted to
Dec 17, 2013 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The ambitious, and anyone unaware of Iris Chang
This book is a journalist's biography of her fellow journalist friend. This isn't always a heartfelt read, and sometimes this book is hard to read because Biographer Paula Kamen tries to write about Iris Chang as a journalistic subject rather than as a friend. As any of us might learn about a friend, there's always much about a person that you just never know, maybe aren't meant to know, and in this case, there are some startling secrets and discoveries.

This is an incredibly well researched book
Dec 22, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: audio, 2014-reads
What at first irritated me with its author's self-involved concerns about how going to the "dark place" of exploring Iris Chang's life would affect her, and its intimations of conspiracy theory, and its unnecessary recaps of what Chang wrote in The Rape of Nanking (since anyone reading this has already read that), turned into a pretty respectable work of investigation of Chang's life and mental health (she was bipolar) and a methodical de-construction of the conspiracy theories about the Japanes ...more
Samantha Nowatzke
Feb 04, 2014 Samantha Nowatzke rated it liked it
Suicide leaves so many unanswered questions and I was intrigued by the premise of this book, however, I don't think it delivered many of the "answers" I was looking for as a reader. It also was an overview that seemed lengthy without details about her research that could have made it more fascinating.
Iris Chang's mysterious suicide in 2004, at age thirty-six, didn’t seem to make any sense. Some even wondered if the controversial author of The Rape of Nanking had been murdered. Long-time friend Paula Kamen was among those left wondering what had gone so wrong. A literary investigation of an important writer's journey, Finding Iris Chang is a tribute to a lost heroine, a portrait of the real and vulnerable woman who inspired so many around the world.

We met Paula Kamen when she visited the Tatt
Jul 08, 2009 Geeta rated it liked it
Interesting investigation into the story behind Iris Chang's suicide at the age of 36. Chang, the author of The Rape of Nanking was a gifted young writer who often alienated her friends and colleagues with her naked ambition. Kamen looks at Chang's life and death through the lens of their friendship and Chang's mental illness. Late in her life, Chang was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Kamen writes convincingly about the need for more research into the role culture and gender play in our ...more
Maya Rock
Aug 29, 2008 Maya Rock rated it it was ok
Recommended to Maya by: strand annex GOING OUT OF BUSINESS :(
Fascinating, easy to read. However there are limitations to this book. I felt like I never got below the surface of Iris; and I didn't know what to make of this. The author and she were close and it seems like maybe it would have been difficult for the author to dig too deeply into Iris' psyche.

I did enjoy the read a lot, though.

The author is a big believer in not demonizing mental illness and I respected that...but I did feel it contributed to her reticence about the more personal aspects of I
Dec 18, 2007 Amy rated it liked it
I actually listened to this as an audiobook rather than reading it and suspect that that fact impacted somewhat negatively on my opinion.

Iris Chang, the subject of this book, wrote "The Rape of Nanking", I book I read and found disturbing but important. I was therefore interested in hearing about her personal story and about how her disturbing research may have impacted her.

From that point of view, I found the book lived up to my expectations, but the author seemed to lift whole conversations (w
Jan 08, 2010 Connie rated it it was ok
This book was a disappointment. I felt like the author was too fixated on herself and the underlying guilt she felt about not really being there for her friend in the last years of her life. Reading between the lines, it appeared that some of Iris Chang's family and friends didn't want to contribute to the book, which made me think there was some backstory to that. And there were some odd holes in the storyline. How come no pictures of Iris? I also didn't care for the way the author summed up th ...more
Jan 01, 2008 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a biography-cum-detective story by a writer attempting to discover how her friend, the famous Iris Chang, could possibly have committed suicide. While I found learning about Chang's life and ensuing activism fascinating, the inquiry into her death and particularly subsequent discussion of Chang's diagnosis of bipolar disorder was naive and unsatisfying.

I found some of the themes the author chose to cover interesting (the use of archives and the rewards of rigorous research, to name
Aug 08, 2015 Bridget rated it liked it
well written tribute to a friend. unfortunately, I can not agree with ms. kamen choice of subject. no matter how tragic your friend's death is, writing about it in order to sell books is kind of gross. which is why the rating is low for me. well written but should it have been written? nah
Feb 07, 2013 Shana rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, psychology
I enjoyed this "psychological autopsy" of Iris Chang, a journalist who wrote a bestselling book about Japanese war crimes in Nanking, China during WW II and who later descended into mental illness and killed herself. The book is written by an old college friend of hers who struggles to make sense of her suicide by researching Chang's life and the events leading up to her death. As a mental health professional, I found this book very interesting. I also think it's a good example of how mental ill ...more
Apr 22, 2015 Jett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish it had been a little better organized, gone a little deeper in a couple areas but you still get a sense who Iris Chang was as a person.
David Marxer
Nov 24, 2010 David Marxer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Chang's death was so personally painful to me that it took me three attempts to get through this book, but now I'm glad I did. Although Chapters 1 and 8 were the hardest to get through because I'm still very angry with Ms. Chang's husband and family for not wanting to be the 'bad guys' and commit her a hospital---the author brings this up at the bottom of page 273---the rest of the book, especially the last chapters dealing with bipolar disorder and debunking a lot of conspirscy theories mad ...more
I've always been fascinated by Iris Chang. When I read the Rape of Nanking, I was amazed that someone my age could write in this way. This book was very personal to her and you could read and feel the intensity about how she felt about what had happend. She was very angry. Like many others, I was so shocked when she committed suicide. I'm not sure how I feel about this book and how it is written but I want to know more about why she took her life when she was someone that had everything in the w ...more
Julie Flynn Badal
Feb 20, 2008 Julie Flynn Badal rated it liked it
Kamen provides an objective portrait of the young historian who single-handedly documented the atrocities committed by the Japanese in Nanking during World War II. Considering Kamen was a close friend of Chang, I was impressed with the author's ability to investigate and report on the factors and events that contributed to Chang's suicide. But while the book was initially gripping, it ultimately fell short. It became repetitive as Kamen circled round and round the same driving points.
Apr 08, 2008 Sneha rated it it was ok
this was intriguing because it traced iris chang's descent into deeper mental illness, and captured the sadness of a great mind unraveling.

but ultimately the book was self-referential. the author really had no real grasp of the scope of bipolar disorder and psychosis. it always came back to her. granted we understand things through the lens of our own experiences. however, as a biographer of a period of chang's life the author should have been able to do more than bring it back to herself.
May 01, 2014 Seul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good read, it was very personal you can tell that in the very beginning. Yet, I didn't really feel that much emotion in Paula's words. I have to say just hearing about Iris Chang, makes me want to learn more about her and even before I read any of her books she has inspired me. I would truly like to thank Paula for writing this wonderful book.
Oct 15, 2011 Jane rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I saw Iris Chang interviewed on Book Notes by Brian Lamb a few years ago about her work on the Rape of Nanking. I remember wondering at the time how a woman could find the strength to not only research such horrifying abuse of females, but then to describe it all in graphic detail. Her suicide saddened me, and although I read this biography, I never found it possible to be brave enough to read her seminal work.
Ally Armistead
May 30, 2010 Ally Armistead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Finding Iris Chang" is a a fluent memoir exploring Iris' life and suicide, her determination in her career, and the lasting impact she's had and continues to have on unresolved Japanese WW II war crimes--which, shockingly, is ALOT. I recommend this for anyone interested in the Pacific, in one of the top historians in the field, or for anyone interested in the grieving and healing of suicide trauma.
Apr 14, 2016 Betsy rated it it was ok
This book had a lot of interesting insights into Iris Chang's life and facts I didn't know about (like the fact Iris had her son through a surrogate), but it was clumsily knit together, poorly written, and there was way too much attention paid to the author herself. I kept wishing the author would get out of her own way and just write about Iris.
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