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

by Ken Cuthbertson

Paperback, 1999




Faber & Faber (1999), Edition: First Paperback Edition, 400 pages


"A rip-roaring bio" of the trailblazing New Yorker journalist that "explore[s] both the passion and dissatisfaction that fueled Hahn's wanderlust" (Entertainment Weekly). 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.… (more)


½ (27 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member tloeffler
Born in 1905 in St. Louis, Emily Hahn was one of those extraordinary women whose lives spanned the 20th Century, and who lived absolutely fascinating lives. I am stunned that I had never heard of her. She did things and went places that women just did not do or go in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. She was
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a prolific writer (hundreds of New Yorker articles and 52 books, several of which I can't wait to get my hands on!) and a world traveler, and the title of the book comes from her response to the question "Why did you go there?" "Well, nobody said NOT to go." A very interesting book about a very interesting woman.
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LibraryThing member Meggle
A remarkable biography that follows the eclectic life of writer Emily Hahn as she travels throughout the world. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member JoeCottonwood
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
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
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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.
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Original language


Physical description

400 p.; 6.5 inches


0571199658 / 9780571199655
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