Read Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind by Paula Kamen Free Online
Book Title: Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind|
The author of the book: Paula Kamen
ISBN 13: 9781433205163
Edition: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date of issue: October 1st 2007
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 27.53 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.2
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"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 as her fellow student won internships, jobs and awards that outshone Kamen and most of their friends. The two remained close, however; supporting each other with phone calls, letters and e-mails about everything from dealing with chronic pain to pregnancy to publishing; but especially the progress of each other's books.
Chang won instant fame and fortune with the publication of her 1997 book, "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII." She was beautiful, she was thin; she had a successful marriage, a new baby, three books to her credit and another in the works when she committed suicide in 2004 at age 36. Her friends, including Kamen, were stunned and disbelieving at both the news of her death and that Chang had just recently been diagnosed with a mental illness.
When Kamen couldn't reconcile the perfect Iris Chang she knew with the woman who killed herself, she went looking for the answers that resulted in this book. She used Chang's own suggestions about how to write a book: "Ask yourself, what is the single most important question that this book will answer ... then ask yourself, what are five to ten questions that must be asked in order to answer my main question?"
Kamen asks — and answers — all those questions and many more — especially about mental health issues — as she reconstructs Chang's life and death. While the story of Chang is fascinating, what caught my interest even more was all the research and bits of information that Kamen amasses. It starts out as background and eventually becomes the story.
Some of Kamen's side roads:
* A discussion of the range of acceptable behaviors among Asians and Cacasians. When Chang began acting outside the narrowly acceptable Asian range, her white friends missed all the cues. The book points out that even for trained mental health professionals, there is "an extreme lack of clinical research into non-white subjects and how they experience mental illness."
* Chang was apparently bi-polar. She was also undergoing hormonally-based infertility treatments in an attempt to get pregnant. Those prone to bi-polar are extraordinarily sensitive to "all major hormonal shifts," according to Kamen's findings; meaning the treatments would have had a profoundly negative effect on Chang.
* "Research has shown that Asian Americans end up seeking mental illness services only when the disease has become completely unmanageable," according to Dr. Jha, a co-founder of the Asian American Suicide Prevention Initiative. "The individual will try to tolerate it and compensate for it, and the family has a very high level of tolerance for it." The only time in her life that Chang saw a therapist or went on medication was in the few months before she died.
* "American college students of Asian descent are twice as likely to seriously consider suicide as their white peers. Furthermore, Asian-American women between fifteen and thirty-four are twice as likely to actually commit suicide as their white counterparts. China alone accounts for a staggering 40 percent of the world's suicide deaths and more than half the world's female suicides."
Chang covered dark topics and met a painful end and Kamen doesn't shy away from any of it. She looks at the book, "Final Exit;" how its author intended it to be used vs. how many people actually use it, and how Iris Chang used it. And discusses journalists and the personal price they pay for covering the world's traumas and pain.
Ultimately, Chang's mental illness was "the main culprit" behind her death, say Kamen. And Chang's death has been the door that has opened the discussion on this issue in the Asian-American community. But reading this book suggests that there are many more tragedies out there, as real and painful as Chang's, if less publicized. Kamen's book is one step toward public awareness about the lack of research about how gender and ethnicity can shape mood disorder. It is also a great tribute to her friend. Iris Chang.
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