Emily Hahn is one of the my favorite writers and probably the writer who has influenced me the most. Her colossal memoir, China to Me, is one I’ve read several times.
I’m especially drawn to Emily Hahn because she did her own thing and didn’t care what others thought. Whenever I have second thoughts about something I’ve written or something I’ve said or done, I think of Emily and know she would approve unconditionally.
She was from the Midwestern United States and journeyed to China with her sister in the mid-1930s. As soon as she touched down in Shanghai, she knew she was home. Emily had a long-standing affair with a married Chinese poet and publisher named Sinmay Zau and was close friends with Sir Victor Sassoon. She left Shanghai for Hong Kong during WWII and was stuck in the British colony after the Japanese took Shanghai. In the early 1940s, she took up with the head of British intelligence, had a baby with him, and later married him. She and Charles Boxer had a second daughter after the war and enjoyed a long-distance marriage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Emily Hahn died in 1997 in New York at the age of 92.