Lan Samantha Chang

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Lan Samantha Chang
BornAppleton, Wisconsin[1]
Alma materYale University (BA)
Harvard University (MPA)
GenreNovel, short story
Notable worksHunger
All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost
The Family Chao
Notable awardsAnisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction (2023)
Berlin Prize (2021)
PEN/Open Book Award
(2005) Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award (1998)

Lan Samantha Chang (張嵐; pinyin: Zhāng Lán) is an American novelist and short story writer. She is the author of The Family Chao (2022) and short story collection Hunger. For her fiction, which explores Chinese American experiences, she is a recipient of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Berlin Prize, the PEN/Open Book Award and the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award.

She is the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Arts at the University of Iowa and the Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the first woman, and the first Asian American, to hold the position.[2]


Lan Samantha Chang was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and attended Yale University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies. She worked briefly in publishing in New York City, before getting her MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford.


Chang's first book is a novella and short stories, titled Hunger (1998). The stories are set in the US and China, and they explore home, family, and loss. The New York Times Book Review called it "Elegant.… A delicately calculated balance sheet of the losses and gains of immigrants whose lives are stretched between two radically different cultures."[3] The Washington Post called it "A work of gorgeous, enduring prose."[4] The collection won the California Book Awards' Silver Medal for Fiction and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards's Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

Her first novel, Inheritance (2004), is about a family torn apart by the Japanese invasion during World War II. The Boston Globe said: "The story…is foreign in its historical sweep and social detail but universal in its emotional truth." Publishers Weekly noted: "It is memory — rather than dramatic action — at which Chang excels; her prose is lovely."[5] The novel won a PEN Open Book Award in 2005.[6]

Chang's second novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost (2011), follows two poets and their friendship as they explore the depths and costs of making art. The book received a starred review from Booklist and praise: "Among the many threads Chang elegantly pursues—the fraught relationships between mentors and students, the value of poetry, the price of ambition—it is her indelible portrait of the loneliness of artistic endeavor that will haunt readers the most in this exquisitely written novel about the poet’s lot." NPR wrote: "This relatively short novel begins small, but blossoms into a full and resonant story of the pains and perils, falsehoods and truths of trying to be an American artist, in this case poet, against all odds, psychological and social. In its own way, it is rather unforgettable."[7]

Chang's fourth book and third novel, The Family Chao, was published by the W. W. Norton & Company.[8] The Guardian praised it: "One of the many pleasures of The Family Chao is the way the novel dramatises the gap between how a family wants to be seen, and its messier inner realities."[9] The Star Tribune called it "A playful literary romp with a serious heart. Operatic and subversive."[10]

Barack Obama chose the novel for his 2022 summer reading list.[11] The book was a Jeopardy! clue on October 6, 2022. It won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction in 2023.[12]

Chang has received fellowships from MacDowell, the American Library in Paris, the Guggenheim Foundation,[13] the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the National Endowment for the Arts.[14]

Directorship of Iowa Writers' Workshop[edit]

As the sixth director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Chang has been fundamental to the increase of racial, cultural, and aesthetic diversity within the program, and has mentored a number of emerging writers.[15] Beyond that, she is credited with increasing the program’s endowment from $2.6 million to $12.5 million.[16] In 2019, she received the Michael J. Brody Award[17] and the Regents' Award for Excellence from the University of Iowa.

In a 2022 interview with Open Country Mag, she discussed what her 17 years at the helm means: "One thing that seemed really clear to me was that if we were to represent American literature then we had to bring in literature from all over the world. There is the possibility of creating the conversation not just in this country but around the world that brings in as many voices as possible, and that is a goal of mine with this program. I feel like what we’re doing is work in progress."[18]

About her work as the program director, Oprah Daily wrote: "Under Lan Samantha Chang’s mentorship, a new generation of writers has emerged."[19]

Awards and distinctions[edit]




Selected Nonfiction

See also[edit]

Critical studies[edit]

  • Jonathan Freedman. "Transgressions of a Model Minority." Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, 2005 Summer; 23 (4): 69–97.
  • Hetty Lanier Keaton. Feeding Hungry Ghosts: Food, Family, and Desire in Stories by Contemporary Chinese American Women. Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 2002 July; 63 (1): 187–88. U of Tulsa, 2002.


  1. ^ Birnbaum, Robert, "Lan Samantha Chang", The Morning News
  2. ^ Associated Press (April 12, 2005). "Chang to head writing program". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  3. ^ Messud, Claire (October 25, 1998). "A Hole in Our House". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  4. ^ Wan, Helen C. "Children of Broken Dreams". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  5. ^ "INHERITANCE". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  6. ^ "2005 LITERARY AWARDS WINNERS". November 2, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  7. ^ Cheuse, Alan. "Book Review: 'All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost'". NPR. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Lee, Jonathan (February 10, 2022). "The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang review – a tasty succession drama". The Guardian. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  10. ^ Chai, May-lee. "Review: 'The Family Chao,' by Lan Samantha Chang". The Star Tribune. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  11. ^ Obama, Barack. "I've read a couple of great books this year and wanted to share some of my favorites so far. What have you been reading this summer?". Twitter. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  12. ^ "Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards Announce 2023 Winners". Cleveland Magazine. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  13. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Lan Samantha Chang". Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  14. ^ "Lan Samantha Chang | Iowa Writers' Workshop | College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | The University of Iowa". Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  15. ^ Chen, Ken. "In Elite MFA Programs, The Challenge of Writing While 'Other'". NPR. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  16. ^ Zhang, Ada. "The Radical Vision of Lan Samantha Chang". A Public Space. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  17. ^ "Michael J. Brody Award for Faculty Excellence in Service | Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost". Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  18. ^ Obi-Young, Otosirieze (July 23, 2022). "In Conversation with Lan Samantha Chang, Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop". Open Country Mag. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  19. ^ Leigh Haber, Hamilton Cain, Wadzanai Mhute, and Joshunda Sanders (January 12, 2022). "Lit Up". Oprah Daily. Retrieved May 6, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Chang, Lan Samantha (November 26, 1998). "Opinion | Pass the Turkey. And the Stir-Fry. (Published 1998)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  21. ^ Chang, Lan Samantha (January 3, 2008). "Opinion | ... And Iowa Now (Published 2008)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  22. ^ Chang, Lan Samantha (March 7, 2009). "Opinion | Volvos From Florida (Published 2009)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  23. ^ "Writers, Protect Your Inner Life". Literary Hub. August 7, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2020.

External links[edit]