In Memoriam: David Chan, Author and Pitzer Professor


A man with long hair
Pitzer professor and author David Chan passed away in March. (Courtesy of Pitzer College)

David Chan, critically-acclaimed fiction writer, has died. He was 48.

Chan was found dead at his home in Claremont on March 9. A dedicated teacher, he had been serving as visiting writer at Pitzer College, and died from natural causes.

Chan grew up in Southern California and held degrees from Yale University, the University of California, Irvine, and Syracuse University. He also spent a number of years in New York City, where he worked in book publishing. 

Chan’s debut collection of stories, “Goblin Fruit,” was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. His stories bring a dreamlike, mystical approach to the experience of childhood, Los Angeles, Asian American identity, pop culture, memory, and longing.

Writing in the “Los Angeles Times Book Review,” Rick Moody called the collection “probably the most stunning debut of the year, one that gives much promise of great things to come.” In the “New York Review of Books,” Joyce Carol Oates described Chan’s voice as “haunting and original. ‘Goblin Fruit’ is a fascinating cri de couer by a young writer of promise and substance.” 

Chan’s writing appeared in such publications as Conjunctions, BOMB Magazine, and Columbia, and he was awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, among others.

In 2009, he was one of five American artists selected to participate in a cultural exchange in China with Chinese writers, a program funded in part by the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Writers Association. Prior to teaching at Pitzer, Chan was the visiting creative writer at the University of South Dakota from 2011 to 2012, and the inaugural Ofstad Endowed Chair Writer-in-Residence and visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Truman State University from 2013 to 2015.

Chan is survived by his brother Leo.

Brent Armendinger, MFA, is an associate professor of English and world literature at Pitzer College.

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