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A Love Letter to Handwritten Letters

How long has it been since you last received a handwritten letter, note, or postcard, or wrote one yourself? If you have to search your mind for an answer, it has probably been a while. Then again, how many people these days still regularly practice this traditional method of correspondence?

In our new Internet and computer age, we can call, text, email, and Facetime if we have the need, or urge to communicate with one another. We can even send a bouquet of flowers across the ocean with a click of our keyboard.

As our world changes, beautiful stationery and fountain pens have quietly retreated to the backs of drawers and the corners of shelves, all but forgotten by their owners. Penmanship and letter-writing skills seem to have vanished.

For those of us who grew up before the computer era, however, the nostalgic memories of writing, sending, or receiving a letter are still very real. Sometimes, a letter served as the only connection between faraway family members.

In turbulent times, a letter – or its absence – could signify life or death.

During the days of the Cultural Revolution, my father was often jailed in unknown locations. For weeks and months, we were not allowed to see him, and we were worried to death about his life. Helpless and anxious, we waited or his sporadic postcards, the only signs that he was still alive.

To this day, I have kept this precious correspondence from my father, a stark reminder of the hardships our family went through. Now that he is long gone, I feel his presence through the aging, yellowing paper and faded words he inscribed. You can find one of his messages in my historical family saga, Once Our Lives.

In the 1980s, I left China for America. For the first six and a half years, the only physical connections I had with my family were letters. To save postage and pack in as much information as we could, they were written on very thin paper, densely packed with tiny words – each written in a loving, familiar hand. I kept them neatly in a pile by my bedside. When I missed my family, I reread their letters, one by one, to feel their presence.

My own life experience tells me that handwritten notes can carry tremendous personal and even historical significance. The letters we write today may mean the world to future generations tomorrow. September 1 is World Letter Writing Day – a perfect time to dig out our beautiful old stationery, connect in a uniquely intimate way with friends and family, and renew our age-old love affair with pen and paper.

By Qin Sun Stubis

You can always reach me at, or please visit me at You can find a copy of my book, Once Our Lives, online at

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