Rising Stars and Fallen Women : Writing Lives in Emily Hahn's China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-161
Number of pages14
Journal / PublicationJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number4
Online published9 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


The writings of Emily Hahn demonstrate the ways in which the semi-colonial context of China served as a contested and transformative space in the Western literary imagination during the mid-twentieth century. During her nine years in China, Hahn became a well-known figure in America, writing a biography of the Soong sisters, a best-selling autobiography, and number of vignettes for the New Yorker that document her perspectives on life abroad. During this period Hahn also published two novels, Steps of the Sun (1940) and Miss Jill (1949), works that were less suited for a mainstream readership and which explored themes of inter-racial romance, drug-use, and prostitution. While Hahn's work can be read in terms of crossing boundaries and challenging normative conceptions of gender and race, her writings also offer a critical comment on the trope of transgression itself and its visibility in popular culture.

Research Area(s)

  • Emily Hahn, Feminist travel writing, prostitution in literature