Iris Chang, a best-selling author who chronicled the Japanese occupation of China and the history of Chinese immigrants in the US, was found dead in her car of a self-inflicted gunshot, authorities said. She was 36.
Chang, who won critical acclaim for her books The Rape of Nanking and The Chinese in America, was found along Highway 17 just south of Los Gatos, Santa Clara County authorities said on Wednesday. On Tuesday morning, a motorist noticed her car parked on a side road, checked the vehicle and called police.
The official cause of death has not been released, but investigators concluded that Chang, who was hospitalized recently for a breakdown, shot herself in the head. She lived in San Jose with her husband and two-year-old son.
Born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1968 and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Chang earned a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Illinois and a master's in science writing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
She worked briefly as a reporter for The Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune before leaving daily journalism to pursue her own writing. At age 25, she published her first book, Thread of the Silk-worm, which tells the story of Tsien Hsue-shen, the Chinese-born physicist who pioneered China's missile program after being driven from the US during the Cold War.
In 1997, Chang published the international bestseller The Rape of Nanking, which described the rape, torture and killing of hun-dreds of thousands of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers in the former Chinese capital during the late 1930s. The Chinese in America, published last year, is a history of Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the US.
Chang reportedly suffered a breakdown and was hospitalized during a recent trip researching a book about US soldiers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II.