Iris Chang’s effort to expose the 1937 story of Japanese atrocities in Nanking has impacted me personally through the realization that such historic events are both contemporary and relevant to today’s fight for justice and truth. I have been so motivated by the personal advocating of Chang’s beliefs that I am more sensitive to human rights; they are now a key factor in what I teach high school students. The media bombards us daily with injustice and tragedy because our freedom of expression allows the media to do so. Similarly, our freedom of expression allows us to act on these injustices unlike the limitations placed on oppressed victims. Because of Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II, her accompanying speeches, radio and television appearances, I now embrace the notion that one person can make a difference. I feel strongly that students in today’s classrooms need to know this. Not to teach this is dangerous because victims of atrocities, such as those at Nanking, do not live forever; therefore, their stories must. Otherwise, perpetrators go unaccountable and the tangible link between history and current events becomes diminished.
Throughout high school, college, university, and as a student teacher, I was taught very little about the Asia Pacific theater of war. Why had I not been exposed to this? It depicts the inhumanity, death, and torture faced by innocent civilians and brave soldiers, highlighting the inhumanity that is repeated throughout history. Iris Chang’s book immediately opened for me a previously unknown chapter of history. It was history, as stated by Stephan Ambrose, that Chang understood needed to be communicated in an interesting way (The Australian). After reading her book I made a professional and personal commitment to expose this contemporary and historic chapter of history. As a high school social studies teacher, my curriculum responsibilities relate to twentieth century world history and historical / contemporary Canadian history. I have molded my studies, interests, and pursuits in this field in order to become a “specialist.” I came about the Rape of Nanking by chance, almost incidentally. I have a passionate interest in Canadian Hong Kong Veterans who served in defense of the British crown colony of Hong Kong, only to spend close to four years as prisoners of the Japanese Imperial Army. The Canadian Hong Kong Veterans’ experiences as prisoners lacked exposure in Canada, yet they are stories that fit within the events associated with the Japanese plans for a Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.