From the Los Angeles Times, “Asian Enough” is a podcast about being Asian American — the joys, the complications and everything else in between. Each week, hosts Jen Yamato and Frank Shyong of The Times invite celebrity guests to share their personal stories and unpack identity on their own terms. They explore the vast diaspora across cultures, backgrounds and generations, share “Bad Asian Confessions,” and try to expand the ways in which being Asian American is defined. Guests so far include director Jon M. Chu, actor Dante Basco, chef Niki Nakayama, actor John Cho, rapper Dumbfoundead, journalist Mina Kimes, model Padma Lakshmi, TV host Jet Tila, writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, attorney Rabia Chaudry, director Lulu Wang, actor Sung Kang and comedian Margaret Cho.
On “Asian Enough,” entertainment reporter Jen Yamato and columnist Frank Shyong interview a different celebrity guest each week about what being Asian American means to them. On every episode, they talk about what Asian Americans are, and aren’t. They name the boxes that America tries to put Asian Americans in, and together, they encourage one another to reject them.
What we’ve found working on this podcast is that sharing these vulnerabilities can take away their power to hurt us. And talking about them has helped us understand that a lot of Asian Americans have been through a lot of the same things. Though Asian Americans might be the most disparate racial category in America, comprising dozens of nationalities, languages and cultures, what Asian Americans have in common are the weird stereotypes that America tries to apply to them.
When you can’t be Asian enough and you’ll never be American enough to fit into any other racial category, what remains is this nagging feeling of alienation and inadequacy. And you start to blame yourself rather than the impossible quandaries you’re presented with. So on our podcast, we talk about our shames and flaws, and try to accept them. It’s a scary conversation to have, but an important one: Psychologists are exploring the possibility of a connection between racial dislocation and mental illness among Asian Americans. Asian Americans may be overrepresented at elite colleges, but once there, they struggle with higher rates of suicide and mental illness.
So many Asian Americans have spoken of not being Asian enough and not being seen as American. We may never figure out how to convince American society that Asian Americans are just as American as everyone else. But we can try to accept each other. We can tell each other, even as society tells us the opposite, that who we are is enough.