San Jose park named after Iris Chang

Updated: 2015-02-28 04:09

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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San Jose park named after Iris Chang

From Left: San Jose City Council member Margie Matthews, who represents the North San Jose district, Ying-Ying Chang and her husband, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at the San Jose City Hall. Provided to China Daily

Iris Chang, "the woman who could not forget," now is going to be remembered by park visitors in the community where she spent her last days.

The city council of San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, on Feb 24 unanimously approved a recommendation to name a future park "Iris Chang Park," in memory of the late Chinese-American historian and the author of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.

When the book was published in 1997, it became an immediate best-seller, introducing the Nanking Massacre (1937-1938) to more Western readers. It chronicled the massacre and the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

"It's a great honor for us. Iris would be very happy, looking at us from above," said Ying-Ying Chang, Iris's mother, who wrote a memoir about her daughter, The Woman Who Could not Forget.

She said she would be very happy for the park to remind more people about Iris and the history that she devoted her life to preserving.

Construction of the five-acre park is expected to start next year in North San Jose, where Iris lived before she took her own life at age 36 in 2004. At the time, she was battling depression. The city is expected to acquire the lot this fall, and a public hearing would probably follow to solicit design options.

Her parents, both scientists, have lived in San Jose since moving there from Illinois in 2003.

Three to four years ago, the Changs learned from former city council member Kansen Chu that the city was soliciting nominations for naming some public facilities to reflect the community's ethnic and cultural diversity and to recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to the local, national or global community.

"Considering that Iris Chang had been a resident of Parkside close to the future park and considering that the nearby communities consist of multi-racial and multi-cultural high-tech populations, we strongly recommend the name of the new park as Iris Chang Memorial Park," said Ying-Ying in her letter to the city's first public hearing in November 2014.

To win the public's support, Iris's mother had gathered more than 200 signatures by knocking on neighbors' doors and writing them e-mails.

"To my surprise, most of them heard of Iris but did not know that she had lived in the neighborhood," Ying-Ying said during a telephone interview.

Apart from the neighborhood's support, she said, special thanks goes to Kansen Chu, now a California assemblyman, for helping make the park's name a reality.

"We hope a monument or a statue of Iris could be erected in the park, but of course that will call for donations," Ying-Ying said.

The completed park will include two tennis courts, a half basketball court, a children's playground, a restroom building, open turf areas and bridges.