IRIS CHANG, who died last week of an apparent suicide, once asked a profound question: How could a brutal massacre in a Chinese city in World War II, in which the Japanese army killed thousands of people—a death toll possibly even higher than that of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—have been relegated to a historical footnote? Driven to find the answer, Chang wrote The Rape of Nanking, a landmark work of history that helped push the 1937 bloodbath into the public's consciousness and the then-29-year-old American to the forefront of nonfiction writing. Criticized by some Japanese scholars who questioned...

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