|發表於: 十二月 星期六 09, 2006 4:57 am 文章主題: Iris’s Spirit is Everywhere
|Y. Y. Chang, Dec 08, 2006
Our daughter Iris Chang died two years ago. In March, my husband and I and a number of friends established a memorial fund in her name to continue her unfinished work. The fund’s first activity was a memorial essay contest with the topic, "How has Iris Chang’s book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII affected my life and thinkings"
The response was overwhelming. We received nearly 300 essays from 43 of 50 states and a number of foreign countries. The authors were from all walks of life: 80 percent of them, however, were students and the majority was non-Asian. The youngest was a 12-year-old middle school student and the oldest were retirees.
Because of the overwhelming response, we had to invite 16 judges to screen the essays in three stages. I personally read over 100 essays and every one moved me to tears. Each was a testimony of the author’s personal journey and how Iris’s book had affected his/her life.
Almost all of the writers voiced criticism that they did not learn about the Asian part of WWII from their school’s history curriculum. Some writers felt they were betrayed by the American education system. Many could not forgive the U.S. and other countries for standing by in apathetic silence when Japanese soldiers were committing such hideous war crimes in Nanking in 1937.
After reading Iris’s book, a student, who was the grandchild of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors, was enraged at the injustice and also the ensuing silence and decades of denial. Deciding to become a history major, she was determined to preserve the memory of the other great Holocaust of WWII. "Because of Iris Chang’s work," she wrote, "they are now both folded into my identity."
Many writers questioned our government’s foreign policy and the war in Iraq. Noting the photographs of American soldiers torturing bound and hooded men in Iraqi prisons, one author asked, "Are we capable of dropping the veil of civilization and becoming the same monsters that raped a thriving Chinese city?"
Many also saw parallels between the massacre and genocide of the Rape of Nanking and the contemporary tragedies in Rwanda and Darfur. One author, a student and a daughter of Ugandan exiles, was astounded to learn that the war of North Uganda was not the only war that the world had ever turned its back on.
A student of journalism from Belarus drew comparisons with the senseless war the former Soviet Union waged in Afghanistan.
She also observed, "Her book is more of a political manifesto … because the author attempts to go against the mainstream. The Rape of Nanking is too unconventional and too personal, but precisely because of that it possesses a significant historical value."
Iris’s book inspired a number of Asian Americans to tell stories of their families’ war experiences — not only in the essays but also in books and in documentary films.
I can’t forget a woman of Irish-English-Portuguese-Asian origin describing her family’s horrific suffering in 1941 when Hong Kong fell to invading Japanese soldiers; also, the story of a Filipino nurse, who after reading Iris’s book, finally understood her mother’s haunting recollection of Japanese bayonets swinging and plunging in the dark night; and the Chinese-Indonesian American woman who found her identity by tracing back her family’s history in Indonesia during the Japanese occupation.
I have also seen the optimism of the current young generation. They are wise to point out that the world could move forward only through preserving the truth of history and learning the mistakes of the past.
The essays not only brought me catharsis for my sorrow, but I was also energized. Indeed, reading those essays gave me a sense that our daughter Iris Chang did not die because I see her spirit everywhere!
Note: The 25 top essays have been posted at www.irischangmemorialfund.org under the 2006 Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest hyperlink.