Diana Chang

By Kaliyah Richardson

  • Diana Chang is a Chinese American novelist and poet. She is best known for her novel The Frontiers of Love, one of the earliest novels by an Asian American woman. She is considered to be the first Chinese American to publish a novel in the States.
  • Born: 1934, New York City, NY
  • Education: Barnard College
  • Books: The Frontiers of Lo

  • About Diana Chang
  • Diana Chang was born in New York City to a Chinese father and a mother of Chinese and Irish descent. Soon after, her family moved to China, where Chang spent the majority of her childhood and adolescence. She lived in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II and attended the Shanghai American School before matriculating at St. John’s University, Shanghai in 1941. After one year, she left St. John’s to take a position as an editorial and feature writer at the English-language Shanghai Evening Post in 1943, on the recommendation of a friend who knew she was interested in writing. Chang later described her weekly piece in the paper as “chatty, personal, and feminine.” She resigned from the paper after eight months for “political reasons,” which she explained as follows in a letter to the author: “I resigned my ‘position’ … because of the Japanese supervision. No Japanese were in the office, so at first—in my naïveté (I was 17 or 18 at the time)—I thought the paper was run by the three or four men I took to be white Protestants engaged in putting out the newspaper.” Her family later returned to New York City, where she entered Barnard College in the fall of 1946 as a transfer to the class of 1949.
  • Chang chose to major in English, focusing on British and American poets. Soon after entering her first year at Barnard, Ms. Chang’s poem “Mood” was published in the Modern Poetry Association’s Poetry, the most prestigious poetry journal of the time, which was founded by Harriet Monroe in 1912. Chang’s literary talent was no secret at Barnard; she was chosen in May 1947 to read an original poem at the Undergraduate Association’s tea in honor of the retiring Dean Virginia Gildersleeve. Her poem “Spring Comes Too Intricately” was published in the campus literary magazine The Bear as the winning entry in a literary contest sponsored by the magazine. In Chang’s yearbook profile, alongside her interests in golf and yoga, her classmates note her status as a published poet. In May 1949, she graduated from Barnard cum laude, and she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa shortly thereafter.

    After graduation, Chang traveled to France on a Fulbright Scholarship and studied French symbolist poetry at the Sorbonne. After returning to New York, she held editorial positions at various publishing firms and began working on her first novel, The Frontiers of Love, which was published in 1956 to critical acclaim. She went on to publish five more novels and three volumes of poetry between 1959 and 1991. Over the years, Chang maintained her connection to Barnard, occasionally publishing articles in the alumnae magazine. “Typewriters and Trees” chronicles her experience in an artist’s colony in New Hampshire, and “I See the City” is a photo-essay featuring images by noted photographer Rollie McKenna and excerpts from Chang’s novel, A Woman of Thirty (1959). She returned to Barnard in 1979 as an adjunct associate professor of English, teaching creative writing and an interdisciplinary class called “Imagery and Form in the Arts.”

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