Iris Chang has a journalism degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana. After working briefly as a reporter in Chicago, she won a graduate fellowship to the writing seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University. Her first book, Thread of the Silkworm, told the story of Tsien Hsue-shen, father of the People's Republic of China's missile program. Iris Chang is the recipient of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation's Program on Peace and International Cooperation award, as well as major grants from the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation and Harry Truman Library.
Iris Chang was married to Brett Douglas in 1991 and their son Christopher was born in 2002. Iris Chang died on November 9, 2004.