A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Tag: Iris Chang

The Rape of Nanking December 13, 1937

Cover of "The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgot...

Cover via Amazon

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking, an event so horrific that to even peripherally think on it brings feelings of anger, sadness, and horror to me.  Growing up as an American with Chinese ancestry I never heard of this “forgotten” atrocity.  It wasn’t until college when I took an Imperial Chinese history course that I began to delve into the history of my mother’s country and even later than that did I happen upon Iris Chang‘s seminal book on the subject of the massacre in Nanking which began December 13, 1937.

The Rape of Nanking:  The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II tells of the massacre and atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of the former capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing (Nanking).  Iris Chang, in writing and publishing this book, brought to light a neglected bit of history and opened my eyes to the horrifying events that took place.  The book is written in three parts:  the first, telling of the events leading up to and during the massacre; the second, describes the aftermath and western perception and reaction to these events; and the third, chronicles Chang’s theories of why this extreme barbarism committed by the Japanese still does not make it into the public consciousness.  This is some intense reading.  It has been some years since I’ve read this book but the memory is still very vivid of the detailed descriptions of rape, mass murder, live burials, mutilations, and torture.  I remember reading this book with feelings of intense horror and most of the time found myself weeping.  I kept asking myself why and how humans could commit such cruel acts on other humans.

And my disbelief doesn’t end with the tragic particulars of this dark part of Chinese history but the continued revisionist history coming from the Japanese government.  In 1995, the Prime Minister and Emperor offered speeches giving apologies for Japan’s merciless role but there has never been a formal written apology by Japan for the Nanking Massacre where approximately 300,000 Chinese were brutally murdered.  In 2007 Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party flat out denied the massacre ever happened, arguing that the events in Nanking are a fabrication.  The controversy continues to this day.

This book stands as a touching memorial, a strong testament, to those Chinese men, women, and children who were murdered during the Japanese occupation of Nanking.  These gruesome events are not to be swept under the carpet and denied, to forget would be a disservice to the victims dehumanized in a time of war.  I, for one, am reflecting on the victims and their murderers because to forget dooms us to repeat such savagery.

The List of Books I Want to Finish Reading Before the End of Summer (but won’t)

I am always very ambitious about my summer reading list and I always start out very strong.  The problem is that by the middle of the summer I’ve added books not on the original list.  For example, today I stopped into Barnes and Noble to pick up Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  I’m not really sure why I must read that book NOW but I am guessing it has something to do with my son’s sleepaway summer camp experience and the photograph of him with war paint on his face and painted handprints on his stomach.  Go figure.  Simple, right?  It’s only one more book, right?  Wrong, because I also picked up two more books, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (I’ve seen two random episodes of the HBO mini-series and I am intrigued, besides I’ve heard good things) and Why Jane Austen? by Rachel M. Brownstein.  The latter is because I am Jane Austen obsessed and I just cannot pass up any new book about her.

So in addition to my three latest acquisitions, here’s the rest my summer book list (this does not include the books I’ve actually read) which I will not be able to finish before the end of summer.

  1. American Creation by Joseph J. Ellis
  2. Jane Austen:  The Critical Heritage edited by B.C. Southam
  3. Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood by Alison G. Sulloway
  4. Sex at Dawn:  How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
  5. Jane Austen:  A Life by David Nokes
  6. Room by Amanda Donoghue
  7. The Wind’s Twelve Quarters:  Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin
  8. The Woman Who Could Not Forget:  Iris Chang Before and Beyond “The Rape of Nanking” by Ying-Ying Chang
  9. March by Geraldine Brooks
  10. Six Frigates:  The Epic History of the Founding of The U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

I think I need a 12 step program for book addiction.

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