Lan Samantha Chang’s parents both lived in China during the Japanese occupation of that country in World War II; they came to the United States separately, met in New York, and settled in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Chang was born in 1965. Following her parents’ wishes, Chang attended Yale University as a premedical student but changed her mind and earned a degree in East Asian studies. She then attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; however, after taking a number of classes in economics, she decided she wanted to be a writer and began taking creative writing classes in Boston and later earned an M.F.A. at the University of Iowa. She attended Stanford University for two years as a Wallace Stegner Fellow and stayed on there as a teacher.