Iris Yang grew up in China with two parents who were high-achieving educators. They wanted her to be a good student and successful woman, and their passion was biology. She aimed to please them and followed their suggested path.
Yang was one of a few students accepted to the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program, and at 23, she was sent to America with a borrowed $500 and poor English. She went on to study molecular biology and worked with researchers at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She made her parents proud, but she could not let go of a deep-seated desire to pursue one of her first loves: literature.