Author’s Inspiration ~ Iris Yang
Writing changed my life.
I was a very negative person in an unhappy marriage, and I tried hard to change the situation. One book I read said that if you keep writing down five positive things a day, in twenty-one days you can change your negative thoughts. Being desperate, I was willing to try anything.
So I jotted down five positive things a day. It started with words or simple phrases. In time, words became sentences; sentences turned into paragraphs; paragraphs grew into pages. All positive. I didn’t change in twenty-one days. It took me two years. But the end result is remarkable. I’m no longer a negative person. This happened fifteen years ago, so it is a lasting transformation.
The side effects of this practice? I started writing short stories, then novels.
Wings of a Flying Tiger is my first full-length novel. Its sequel, Will of a Tiger, has also been accepted by publication by Open Books.
It is a work of fiction. But to me, a Chinese-American, it is also personal. I was born and raised in China. My mother and grandma had lived in Nanking and escaped from the city just days before the notorious Nanking Massacre when the Japanese soldiers slaughtered 300,000 innocent Chinese and raped 20,000 women in six weeks. Both my mother's and father’s families fled to Chungking, where Japanese frequently bombed the wartime capital. My father told me the repulsive smell of burning flesh, and as a young child, he had nightmares about the raids for several years. A good friend’s father drowned when Japanese attacked his boat; even unable to swim, he jumped into a river to avoid being blasted. A Japanese friend sincerely apologized for the atrocities her fellow countrymen had committed. She knew a former soldier who forced naked Chinese women to march with them to bring up their morale.
China was an isolated country while I was growing up. We were told that the Americans were “devils” and the American soldiers were crude and coward. I didn’t read anything about the Flying Tigers until I came to the US as a graduate student. I was touched once I learned the truth. And the more I read, the more I was touched. I wanted to thank the Flying Tigers. What is a better way to show my gratitude than writing a book about them?
The story of the Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteer pilots who helped China fight Japan in WWII, has been a fascinating and enduring topic for over seventy years. Most of the books, though, were nonfiction written from the perspective of the pilots. This novel is a rescue story from the points of view of both the airman and the Chinese who saved him.
As a Chinese, I’m thankful for the Flying Tigers’ bravery and sacrifice; without their help, the course of the Chinese history might have been changed, my family might not have survived, and I might not have existed.
As a U.S. citizen, I’m honored to write a book about the American heroes. It’s a privilege. A duty.
Wings of a Flying Tiger
In the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.
Jasmine Bai, an art student who had been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.
With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity the serenity of their community is forever shattered.
Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.
Iris Yang (Qing Yang) was born and raised in China. She has loved reading and writing since she was a child, but in China creative writing was a dangerous career. As famous writers and translators, her grandmother and her aunt were wrongfully accused as counter-revolutionary Rightists, so Iris had to choose a safer path—studying science.
After graduating from Wuhan University and passing a series of exams, she was accepted by the prestigious CUSBEA (China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program). At age 23, with poor English, little knowledge of the country, and 500 borrowed dollars, she came to the United States as a graduate student at the University of Rochester.
Later, she received a Ph.D. in molecular biology, trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and worked at the University of North Carolina. Although she has published a number of scientific papers, she has a passion for creative writing, and her short stories have won contests and have been published in anthologies. Currently, Iris is working on a story based on her grandmother, who was the first Chinese woman to receive a master’s degree in Edinburgh in the UK. Iris now lives between Sedona, Arizona and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Besides writing, she loves hiking, dancing, photography, and travel.