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Nobody Said Not to Go: The Life, Loves, and Adventures of Emily Hahn

de Ken Cuthbertson

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836251,305 (3.89)42
The captivating biography of the trailblazing New Yorker journalist and feminist who traveled the world reporting on the tumultuous cultural and political currents of the twentieth century Emily Hahn first challenged traditional gender roles in 1922 when she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin's all-male College of Engineering, wearing trousers, smoking cigars, and adopting the nickname "Mickey." Her love of writing led her to Manhattan, where she sold her first story to the New Yorker in 1929, launching a sixty-eight-year association with the magazine and a lifelong friendship with legendary editor Harold Ross. Imbued with an intense curiosity and zest for life, Hahn traveled to the Belgian Congo during the Great Depression, working for the Red Cross; set sail for Shanghai, becoming a Chinese poet's concubine; had an illegitimate child with the head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong, where she carried out underground relief work during World War II; and explored newly independent India in the 1950s. Back in the United States, Hahn built her literary career while also becoming a pioneer environmentalist and wildlife conservator. With a rich understanding of social history and a keen eye for colorful details and amusing anecdotes, author Ken Cuthbertson brings to life a brilliant, unconventional woman who traveled fearlessly because "nobody said not to go." Hahn wrote hundreds of acclaimed articles and short stories as well as fifty books in many genres, and counted among her friends Rebecca West, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Jomo Kenyatta, and Madame and General Chiang Kai-shek.… (mais)
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Emily "Mickey" Hahn is a woman that has lived life years ahead her times. Emily Hahn is a writer and a traveler, a daughter, a sister and a mother. Emily Hahn is a person that has not followed the rules, but created her own. Emily Hahn is above and beyond all, a woman.
Mickey was raised in a half Jewish family in St. Louis. Her parents were very progressive and as her mother, she has challenged a lot the gender roles, as they were in the 1930s and onwards. She drank alcohol when it was illegal in the US, she smoke cigars and she got a mining engineering degree, when no women were present in the Engineering department of the University of Wisconsin.
Emily Hahn had one thing on her mind, live life as she wanted. If anyone opposed to that, it was not her problem. Therefore, before she even decided to become a writer, she enrolled in all men College of Engineering and got a degree in mining engineering. Though a conventional office job was not her thing, she moved to new York, when Chicago did not fit her along with her sister Helen. She became a member of the literary society there and started her long writing career when one of her stories appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine. She traveled the world. Europe, Africa and Asia were her biggest longest trips. In Asia, first in Shanghai she made her presence known to the local community. She started an unconventional relationship with a Chinese scholar based on the Chinese way of doing things. When war hit Shanghai's door, Mickey moved out in order to write a biography of the most influential women in China at the time, the Soong sisters. Later on she settled in Hong Kong, where she met the life of her life and father of her two daughters, Charles Boxer.
In her writing accomplishments one may find more than fifty books, either fictional or not, and hundreds of articles, short stories and poems. Her unique way of writing can be found in all those books but not in this one. Yet again, it is one very well written book, making a considerable effort on describing the adventures of Emily Hahn in the US and the world.

The reviewed copy was a kind offer of NetGalley.

Review can also be found in Chill and read ( )
  GeorgiaKo | May 27, 2016 |
Riveting. I consider myself literate yet I have never heard of Emily Hahn until I read this scintillating biography despite her having written some 52 books and written for the New Yorker as well. I undoubtedly read her in the New Yorker but didn't realize it. This is both a biography and a book of social history and it does each justice. Emily Hahn led a wild life on several continents. She was an adventurous and daring woman who seemed to live life to the full. The prose is brisk. You won't be disappointed. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Mar 20, 2016 |
Emily Hahn was a fascinating woman whose life is worthy of a television multi-episode series, though probably nobody would believe the drama - her life was simply amazing. Ken Cuthbertson, however, tends to be a tedious biographer. Here, for example, is the start of her life:
"Mickey Hahn's life began at 4858 Fountain Avenue, a quiet downtown residential street in the north-central St. Louis neighborhood known as Grande Prairie. A suburb sprouted there in the years just after the Civil War on the old common fields farmed by the first French settlers in the region. By 1876, when the Grand Prairie was annexed by the city, it was a bustling community of Irish and German immigrants. Bounded on the north by St. Louis Street, on the west by Kingshighway Boulevard, on the south by Delmar Street, and on the east by Grande Boulevard — all busy commercial thoroughfares — the neighborhood was no different from countless others that grew up in cities across the American Midwest in the late nineteenth century."
Do we really need all that?

It’s a dilemma for a biographer: do you tell every detail of a person’s life (for the scholar or the compulsive fan), or do you select what’s interesting (for the general reader)? Speaking as a general reader, here’s my advice to other noncompulsive readers: skim lightly or skip entirely over parts one and two about her early life, then dive into part three about the Belgian Congo and continue through part four about China and part five about Hong Kong. Skim lightly over the remainder about her life in Manhattan and England. Just my opinion, of course. A biography is only as interesting as the life it describes. Emily Hahn’s life in Africa and Asia was simply stunning. The rest, less so. ( )
  JoeCottonwood | Mar 31, 2013 |
A remarkable biography that follows the eclectic life of writer Emily Hahn as she travels throughout the world. Highly recommended. ( )
  Meggle | Feb 19, 2011 |
Emily Hahn was educated as a mining engineer in the 1920s but her real love was living life to the fullest and writing about it. She was an eclectic writer with over 50 books to her credit ranging in topics from angels to zoology. She lived in a variety of intriguing and sometimes dangerous places. Her uninhibited way of life and plain-spoken writing style assured that her travel memoirs on China, England, and Africa were eagerly read.

Emily was born as Amelia in St. Louis in 1905 where she had an “unfashionably happy” childhood. She changed her name to Emily as a young girl but was more commonly known as Mickey because of her resemblance to the popular cartoon character Mickey Dooley. She asserted her independent nature at an early age and gravitated to a Bohemian lifestyle that her readers relished as she traveled the world and reported back to her homeland through the pages of The New Yorker.

It was hard for me to identify with this cigar-smoking exhibitionist who so nonchalantly defied social conventions, but the account of her life was always fascinating. I was on the edge of my chair as I read about her eight years in China, some of them spent in Hong Kong under a sort of house arrest by the Japanese invaders. Who knows, I might even search out some of her writing to learn more about this remarkable woman. ( )
2 vote Donna828 | Feb 5, 2011 |
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The captivating biography of the trailblazing New Yorker journalist and feminist who traveled the world reporting on the tumultuous cultural and political currents of the twentieth century Emily Hahn first challenged traditional gender roles in 1922 when she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin's all-male College of Engineering, wearing trousers, smoking cigars, and adopting the nickname "Mickey." Her love of writing led her to Manhattan, where she sold her first story to the New Yorker in 1929, launching a sixty-eight-year association with the magazine and a lifelong friendship with legendary editor Harold Ross. Imbued with an intense curiosity and zest for life, Hahn traveled to the Belgian Congo during the Great Depression, working for the Red Cross; set sail for Shanghai, becoming a Chinese poet's concubine; had an illegitimate child with the head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong, where she carried out underground relief work during World War II; and explored newly independent India in the 1950s. Back in the United States, Hahn built her literary career while also becoming a pioneer environmentalist and wildlife conservator. With a rich understanding of social history and a keen eye for colorful details and amusing anecdotes, author Ken Cuthbertson brings to life a brilliant, unconventional woman who traveled fearlessly because "nobody said not to go." Hahn wrote hundreds of acclaimed articles and short stories as well as fifty books in many genres, and counted among her friends Rebecca West, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Jomo Kenyatta, and Madame and General Chiang Kai-shek.

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