American Masculinity Reframed

just in time for hot vax summer

ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
“Jeffrey had to experience both what it means to be de-sexualized, and also what it means to be fetishized as an Asian American woman.” - Chinese American photographer Andrew Kung on what he learned from photographing Asian American drag artist Jeffrey for Kung’s portrait series The All-American.


Throughout Andrew Kung’s life he’s been told that he’s really attractive…for an Asian man.

I produced this 15-minute interview between Brooklyn-based photographer Andrew Kung and storyteller Simon Tran a month ago and their voices from this profoundly intimate conversation still pop into my brain when I’m least expecting it.

Kung’s portrait series, The All-American, is not just reimagining what Asian masculinity looks like, it’s bringing American identity into our gloriously colorful present. Here it is, from me and KUOW Public Radio: 'Attractive for an Asian man’: Photographer reframes Asian American masculinity.

This coming Tuesday, I’ll be joined by a very sharp and funny panel of thinkers to take a closer listen to Andrew and Simon’s story. Please tune in! June 15 at 1:00 PM PST / 4:00 PM EST at 94.9 FM, and streaming live at And then next Thursday, join me for this on YouTube. Thanks for spreading the word!


Hang on to your hats there loyal readers - this week’s something to read also includes a 17-minute audio feature from Morning Edition’s Angela King and Katie Campbell. WHAT. You know I’m all about multimedia storytelling.

Here’s the story about a project I may have mentioned before: Black and Asian solidarity: 20 artists explore America's complicated relationship with race.

Shout out to my public radio family for showing #AZNxBLM some love, and sharing with the world how an unexpected $10,000, a tearful conversation with my old Chinese dad, and a fist full of chopsticks reminded me that most humans are mostly good.


This photo essay is a spectacular ode to finding your people and your joy in unexpected places. From photojournalist Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times: Nearly 20 years after I started surfing, I finally have a core group of mostly Black women I surf with.

Here’s Angotti-Jones on going back over and over again until you find where you belong:

“I was too young to understand why at times I felt unwelcome in the lineup. I began to doubt myself, and on particularly bad days, where all I could do was wipe out, I felt as if the ocean didn’t want me, either.

I now have a core group of friends who look like me and also share my reverence for the ocean. I can always spot them bobbing in the water — their heads topped with a poof.”

Let this gorgeous spread be your call to the sea for your hot vax summer.


That’s a wrap on issue 45, friends.

I don’t know what else to say because my brain is fried after a nonstop run of a very full few months. It’s been a lot - but there’s been so much thoughtfulness and inspiration and random acts of kindness too.

You all know who you are with your funny notes, nishime home deliveries, and producer wrangling. I see you all, my misfit fam. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

See you next Thursday.


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