We're All Auditory Learners Now

3 stories to change the way you hear the world for National Radio Day

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, something to read, and something to listen to. Themes will include but will not be limited to: immortal jellyfish, imperfect heroes, cake. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
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Today is National Radio Day! Is that a real thing? I have no idea! But it’s a great excuse to share some excellent audio. For this week’s ROCK PAPER RADIO, all three sections include audio stories that have changed the way I hear the world.


This is a 10-minute audio documentary about a dead whale. Trust me on this one.

Molly Menschel’s Just Another Fish Story is non-narrated, which means the only voices you’ll hear are the colorful characters from a small coastal town in Maine who still have a lot to say about the glorious beast who washed ashore a decade before.

Yes, this story is about a whale. But it’s also about grief, community, and the way our memories make us who we are.

As a bonus, Rob Rosenthal (he’s the public radio whisperer I mentioned in issue 2) opens the piece with his skeptical-turned-astonished experience of falling in love with this story. Enjoy.



Liz Mak’s Snap Judgment story Return to Kuku Island is staggering. In this gutting 52-minute audio documentary, Mak travels with Carina Hoang and other survivors to the island where Vietnamese refugees were abandoned in the 1970’s without food, water, or shelter. They had been told they were being taken to a refugee camp.

In this essay for Public Radio International, Mak’s storytelling is heartbreaking but straightforward as she takes us through Hoang’s harrowing experience. Hoang was just 16-years-old when she was stranded on the island with over 300 other refugees after her father was imprisoned following the Vietnam War. Her two younger siblings, then 12 and 10, were in her care too. All three of them survived.

Hoang has led over a dozen fellow survivors back to Kuku Island to find an unmarked grave of a loved one or a sense or closure. This trip that Mak documents was Hoang’s eighth and final return.



Fiesty Chinese grandmothers have a special place in my heart.

My own Popo was a housecleaner and a model. With only a 10th grade education, she eventually worked her way up to the position of Regional Sales Manager at a Hawaiian clothing manufacturer on Oahu. This role earned her enough to be able to raise five kids on her own. She reigned as my family’s Matriarch in a Muumuu until she passed away at age 72. You can see a picture of her with my dad looking like a 70’s Chinese game show host here.

In this two-minute StoryCorps conversation, 87-year-old Kay Wang sits down to begrudgingly answer a few questions from her son and granddaughter and it’s the best. And no spoilers, but just FYI, Wang’s opening confession is a gem.



That’s a wrap for ROCK PAPER RADIO issue #4, our National Radio Day edition. Thanks for listening/reading/holding on. My appreciation for all of your kind messages, sign ups, and shares in these early days is whale-sized. We’re building a misfit, unlikely optimist community and I’m so excited about it. If you’re excited too, please share this issue with your curious friends or tweet us some love.

See you next Thursday.