Born in New York City, Chang grew up on Long Island and attended the public schools of Merrick. After graduating high school, Chang studied Philosophy at Dartmouth College, interned with the Peace Corps in Kingston, Jamaica, and continued his Philosophy studies at Harvard University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors. After college, Chang attended the Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Graduate Creative Writing program at the University of California at Irvine.
Short Stories & Novels
Chang's short stories have appeared in a variety of literary journals, including The Crescent Review, Confluence, The Literary Review, and Prairie Schooner.
His first novel was The Fruit 'N Food (1996), winner of the Black Heron Press Award for Social Fiction, a story about a loner who finds employment in a New York grocery; major themes involve race relations and violence. His other novels include Dispatches from the Cold (1998), which won the San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award for Literature.
His novel Over The Shoulder (2001), a mystery/noir, forms the first book in a trilogy about his Korean American private-eye protagonist, Allen Choice. Other novels in the "Choice" trilogy are: Underkill (2003) and Fade To Clear (2004) (a USA Today Summer Reading Pick and a finalist for the Shamus Award).
His 2009 novel, entitled Crossings brings together many of the themes and issues of his previous work, and centers around a love story between recent Korean immigrants, while tackling the harsh circumstances of illegal immigration and human trafficking.
Chang has stated in interviews that his newest book, published in 2014 and entitled Triplines, is a highly autobiographical novel about his childhood on Long Island.
Chang's work is unusual in the canon of Asian American literature because of the level of assimilation many of his Korean American characters have achieved. His characters tend to be second generation Americans, often with few ties to their ethnic origins. His later works deal less with race relations than with character-driven issues, such as with Allen Choice, whose name ("Choice" changed from the Korean "Choi" by his father) denotes the shift in ethnic identity and themes. Chang's experiments in crime fiction is related to this shift, since the stories revolve around solving a mystery or crime, and despite the fact that the protagonist is Korean American, the debt here is more to crime and noir writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald. What also seems to differentiate Chang's work from others of his generation is his singular focus on detailing the Korean American experience as distinctly American.
Chang's novels have been translated into Japanese, French and Korean, and are regularly studied in literature, theology and sociology courses throughout the United States, Asia and Europe.
Chang has taught as a faculty member at Antioch University's MFA program, and has been a Visiting Distinguished Writer at Mills College. The U.S. Consulate in Berlin also recently sponsored a multi-city lecture/reading tour of Germany where he read from his works.
Television & Film Writing
Chang is also currently a writer and executive story editor for the FX series Justified, based on various works by Elmore Leonard. He has received "written by" credits on the Justified episodes: "Wrong Roads" (2014), "Peace of Mind" (2013) and "The Hatchet Tour" (2013). He has been a writer/story editor on over 14 other Justified episodes. He also appeared in the 2014 Justified episode "Wrong Roads" as a bartender.
Chang used to be a staff writer for the NBC show Awake. He has served as a staff writer for over 12 episodes and has received "written by" credits for the episodes "Turtles All The Way Down" (2012), "Say Hello To My Little Friend" (2012), and "Nightswimming" (2012).
Chang has written a number of feature film screenplays, including adaptations of his novels Over The Shoulder (which Daniel Dae Kim has been attached to produce and star in) and Dispatches from the Cold, which was a finalist for the Sundance Producer's Lab.
- List of Korea-related topics
- Grew up in Merrick, New York
- Went to Sanford H. Calhoun High School
- Graduated from Harvard University and University of California, Irvine M.F.A. program. Also studied at Dartmouth College.
- Taught at Antioch University Los Angeles.
- Former writer for NBC's Awake
- Currently a writer for FX's Justified
- Triplines (2014)
- Crossings (2009)
- Fade to Clear (2004)
- Underkill (2003)
- Over the Shoulder (2001)
- Dispatches from the Cold (1998)
- The Fruit 'N Food (1996)
- Amazon.com, Triplines by Leonard Chang, http://www.amazon.com/Triplines-Leonard-Chang/dp/1936364093
- LeonardChang.com, Film and TV, http://www.leonardchang.com/filmtv.html
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