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  • Writer's pictureMichael Arnold

The Mark We Make on History

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

When my father died, all I had left of him was a book.

His story survives him, it’s his measure of immortality. That book also changed my life.

The fact is that his book was only half written. The parts of his life that he didn’t write down are gone, the parts he did write remain.

It made me realise how precious our memories are, how important it is to record them. They’re the mark we make on history, and the most substantial things we have to share.

As Metro Writers launches its new website today, I find myself remembering Dad and his book, and how much it means to my family to have his story still with us. It’s because of Dad that I started this service, so that others could share their stories too.

In this era, we’re sharing our moments with others every day. Posts. Likes. Tweets. We use our greatest technology to send out only the most inconsequential thoughts we have.

Books are an older, deeper technology. They’re still the best means we have to capture the parts of our lives that matter. The overwhelming moments that we want others to understand. The way we want to be remembered.

I decided my life’s work would be to help people preserve their stories in books. Everyone, absolutely everyone, has a story. Not everyone can write a book. I would gather together all my colleagues who could write, and as a team we would help those who have stories to tell.

Some years ago, I started Metro Writers as an offshoot to my publishing business in Saigon. Our little writing bureau started composing, editing and translating books that set people’s lives to the page in both English and Vietnamese.

Celebrity chef Jack Lee’s painful childhood in the US after leaving Vietnam as a boat person and his desperate and unlikely rise to fame in Hollywood. Veteran writers Vu Tu Nam and Thanh Huong’s collection of wartime love letters, now made available for international readers to understand everyday family life under the American bombs. Legendary journalist Tran Mai Hanh’s masterful account of the last days of the war. Visionary designer Vo Viet Chung’s story of the resurrection of a lost traditional Vietnamese fabric, lanh my a. The heartache of philanthropist Tran Mai Anh’s struggle to seek corrective surgeries for her son after being attacked by wild animals as a baby.

This year, in the midst of a long and brutal coronavirus outbreak that has stolen the breath of so many, it’s become so clear how precious this life is. How many of us have been taken away by this pandemic?

We relaunch Metro Writers in defiance of the forces that seek to erase us from history. We write so that our stories can stay. We now seek to encourage those with stories to tell—whether it be for family, for business, or to inspire others—to take this time to set their thoughts and memories to the page.

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