Gordon Chang

A PERSONAL JOURNEY
Biographer Gordon Chang Feels a Kinship with his Subject

By Diane Manuel


AAs he read the single-spaced, four-page letters that Yamato Ichihashi typed from the Tule Lake Relocation Center to his colleagues back on the Farm, Gordon Chang began to identify with the personal and professional dilemmas the Japanese professor had faced. “He was primarily, intellectually interested in economics, but he was pushed to teach East Asian studies because of race,” Chang says.

Gordon Chang One of only two faculty members appointed to teach Asian American studies courses at Stanford (along with David Palumbo-Liu, associate professor of comparative literature), Chang is an associate professor of history whose areas of expertise include American diplomacy, the Cold War, modern China and international security. Enrollment in his “Introduction to Asian American History” course, which includes discussion of the exclusionary laws that prohibited Asians from entering the United States and Leland Stanford’s practice of employing Chinese workers as cheap labor, has doubled every year since 1991 and attracted 110 students last year. He also teaches courses in historiography and the Vietnam War.

A lanky young professor with an easy laugh, Chang is a fourth-generation Chinese American who can trace his California roots on his mother’s side back to the 1880s. He once considered writing a social biography of his aunt, the first Chinese American school teacher to be hired in San Francisco, and he could compose equally moving profiles of other members of his distinguished family. His mother was a multilingual graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, who met his father, artist Shu-Chi Chang, during the latter’s 1940 visit to the United States as a goodwill ambassador for Chiang Kai-shek. They were married in 1947 and Gordon was born the following year in Hong Kong, where his father had been invited to exhibit his famed

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NOV/DEC 1996

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