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Where Y'all Really From

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What’s the one universal question Asian Americans are asked at least once (but more like a million times) in their lives? “Where are you from?” “No, but where are you really from?” Where Y’all Really From focuses on the tens of thousands of folks whose answer is, “Kentucky!” Hosts Charlene Buckles & Dan Wu chat with and share the diverse stories and perspectives of Asian American and Pacific Islanders living, learning, and loving in the bluegrass state.

Ways To Subscribe
  • Surprise Bonus Episode!
    Sure, our season's over... but we miss you already! So in this bonus mini episode, our hosts Dan Wu and Charlene Buckles reflect on season one, which ran the gamut from interpersonal decolonization to Doritos and buttermilk. We're gonna go work on season two now, so let us know what you want to hear more about at wyrf@louisvillepublicmedia.org or at whereyallreallyfrom.org. Thank you so much for being part of our inaugural season!
  • Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt | 'Just loving the sport is enough'
    We're closing our season with an interview of Olympian proportions. Fencers Gerek Meinhardt and Lee Kiefer are... pretty accomplished. Gerek is a four-time Olympian who took home team bronze medals in 2016 and 2021. And Lee is the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Champion, a three-time Olympian, and the most decorated women's foil fencer in U.S. history. When they're not training for or competing in the most elite fencing tournaments in the world, they get plenty of rest. Just kidding! They're both in med school at the University of Kentucky. "We were friends for a long time. The fencing world is pretty small," Gerek says. "We were on a lot of world championship teams together growing up." Gerek is from San Francisco. Lee grew up in Kentucky, and she says all the fencers from their two clubs were friends: "There's something about the casual San Francisco energy and maybe like the friendly, southern hospitality of Kentucky, that somehow works very well together." It must work very well together; they got married in 2019. "We share every single success and it just like, it's, it's additive for us. But if you see this practice, that is a different story," Lee says. "I don't like to lose! And I mean, I know Gerek's not very good. He's like number two in the world. I shouldn't be so hard on myself." In this episode, they talk about what it's really like at the Olympics, their philosophy on loving what you do, and the work ethic they inherited from their Asian parents—Lee's mom is from the Philippines and Gerek's mom is Chinese, born in Taiwan.
  • Angelika Weaver | 'We can be one voice'
    Living in Williamsburg, Kentucky, a town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains with a population of 5,000, is a mixed bag for a Pacific Islander. Angelika Weaver's mom is from Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean (it sort of rhymes with "hear a bus," because -ti makes an s sound in the Gilbertese language that's spoken there). Angelika herself was born in Williamsburg, where everyone knows everyone else. "I do feel like I am part of the community," she tells Dan Wu, on this week's episode. "But then there will be moments in time that I will be very aware that I am different." She elaborates: Take, for example, when the George Floyd thing happened and people were very divided in this town about what that meant. Some of those instances I feel like I'm very separate from what other people believe or think, and they don't sometimes realize that I am half Asian American. I am half Pacific Islander. And so the things that they say are hurtful, but at the same time, sometimes I think they don't realize that the things that they say are hurtful, because they just see me as another Appalachian woman. "It's like the positive and the negative all rolled up together," Dan says. "Like you're accepted enough to be part of their racism." Angelika works as an advocate for victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in Whitley County. She says about 10 years ago, she shifted her focus from intervention to prevention, which meant broadening her scope from individual victims' situations. "If I want to get rid of domestic violence and sexual assault in a community, then I really need to look at the community as a whole," she says. "The criminal justice system is a reflection of the community it serves. And so we say things like, we don't believe women should be sexually assaulted. But we also say things like, maybe she deserved that because she was at the wrong side of town, and she was wearing a short dress." She says that kind of cultural change is slow, but it's possible. "If enough people believe in the same message, we just all have to get together with one voice to make that happen." A warning for cynics: Listening to this conversation may give you a touch of that same optimism.
  • Dr. Joann Lianekhammy | 'You are who you are'
    The children of first-generation immigrants often have a complicated relationship with language. Some immigrant parents refuse to speak their native language around the kids, because they want them to focus on learning English. Some kids end up being de facto translators who bridge the language gap between the family and the outside world. And fluency, or the lack thereof, becomes part of the whole package of identity, and longing for a deeper connection with the family's roots. For this week's guest, Joann Lianekhammy, language acquisition has been part of her life from literally the first moment. Because Joann was born in an ESL class. That's not hyperbole. Her parents were refugees from Laos, and refugees were required to take an ESL class at Western Kentucky University, which was taught in a building called the Rock House. "One day, they're in class, and my mom starts going into labor, right then and there," she says. Her dad asked someone to call an ambulance. But baby Joann was a little too ready: My mom's like, 'No, this baby's coming,' and she pulls down her pants. My dad's like, 'what are you doing?' Because, you know, Asian culture, modesty is everything. You do not show, like, anything. He pulls her pants back up. And she was like, 'Are you crazy? I said, this is coming, the baby's coming now.' So he ended up having to deliver me right there in the Rock House, in the middle of class. And while Joann Lianekhammy first met her parents in a language class, it took them a while to really, truly communicate about some important things. In this episode, Joanne tells host Dan Wu a story she never expected to have: her coming out story.
  • Ie Meh | 'A place to call home'
    -----------Note: this episode contains descriptions of violence in the context of a military coup, around the 9-minute mark until the 11-minute mark.------------------Culture shock doesn't even begin to describe the immigration experience of this week's guest, Ie Meh. Ie was born in a Karenni refugee camp in Thailand, and lived there until her family moved to Bowling Green when she was 12. She's 23 now. Because she and her family weren't citizens of Thailand, they weren't allowed to leave the camp where they lived. "We don't have any sense of belonging," she says. Her dad filled out paperwork to move to the United States, and they ended up in Bowling Green, but the transition was tough. "We never ride a car, never in our life," she says. But they had to take a bus to the airport, and then, of course, a plane. "All of my family threw up," she remembers. They also had misgivings about their new home. "There was a rumor that Kentucky is not good place to live. A lot of people said that the community here are not open minded people," she says. "But we love it. We love Kentucky. We love Bowling Green." In this episode, Ie tells Charlene Buckles her incredible story, and why she wants to go back to the refugee camp--after she finishes med school. "I'm hoping I can make a difference," she says. "I love my people. I don't want my culture, or any other, to be erased."
  • Donna Lee Kwon and Jon Silpayamanant | 'Music as a window to understanding'
    "If Beethoven had grown up in the Bay Area in the early 1980s, he would have started a thrash band, probably." Irresponsibly wild conjecture, or another great conversation from "Where Y'all Really From?" On this week's episode, host Dan Wu talks with ethnomusicologist Donna Lee Kwon and multi-instrumentalist and composer Jon Silpayamanant about all things music. Donna Lee Kwon grew up playing classical piano, which placed her right at the center of a pervasive stereotype: "The Asian classical music prodigy," she says. She thinks of it as a variation on the model minority myth. And it comes with a lot of pressure. "If you don't live up to that, you're just like, nothing, basically. It was hard being a young Asian-American musician who did not play perfectly." Now, in her ethnomusicology classes, she debunks another myth for her students. "They've grown up in this system all their lives to believe that Western classical music is superior," she says. "That is why it's worth spending eight hours a day doing that." But she teaches her students to see music as "a window to understanding other cultures." Jon Silpayamanant sees that decentering of male European composers as part of his mission too, particularly as artistic director of Saw Peep - An Intercultural Orchestra He says music by non-Western composers is no less valuable or enjoyable just because it might challenge mainstream audiences' expectations. "Some of these traditions have existed for centuries. They're no less developed than Western classical music. There's so much out there," he says. "And I think there needs to be a narrative about that. And a narrative about how Western music, in general, has excluded all of that."
  • Melanie Parker | 'We just have to do the work'
    Being othered, or outright discriminated against, puts you on the spot. You don't know how to react, and you make a million instant mental calculations about the other person, their possible intentions, the context, the power dynamic. It can trigger a fight, flight or freeze response that you later regret. It's stressful and complicated, even if you've been experiencing it your whole life. But what if you're three? That's the question at the heart of this conversation between host Charlene Buckles and Melanie Parker, a Filipina Kentuckian who grew up in Whitesburg. Charlene tells the story of a friend whose half-Black, half-Asian toddler was approached at the zoo by an adult who asked him where he's from. "This is something that I still go back and forth on talking to my son about. because he's only three," she says. "I thought I had a few more years to even start talking about these questions that people might ask him." Melanie's oldest son is just about the same age. "I think you and I are well equipped to answer that question now. We've gone through it. We have the grit. We know the nuances of that question," Melanie says. "But I immigrated here when I was six. They're three. It's a lot. It's a lot to consider. Amidst potty training, making sure they wear their mask, is answering that question: Where are you from?" This episode dives into the difference between racial legacy (which Charlene describes as "what our parents have essentially taught us: It's okay, you're fine, you're gonna be fine. This happens to us, and just take it in stride") and racial literacy--the ability to examine racialized situations, process them and react authentically. And Melanie recites the lovely list of affirmations she shares with her son.
  • Naveen Chaubal | 'I do hear you'
    Filmmaker Naveen Chaubal grew up making movies. "For school projects, I would always try and sneak and maybe doing a video instead of writing a paper," he says. But it wasn't until college that he realized it could be more than a way to get out of writing papers. "I didn't even know film schools existed," Naveen says. "I had no idea that it was something that you studied. It just wasn't in the realm of possibility." He talks to host Dan Wu about his work, and they discover some of the parallels between art school and culinary school (the main curriculum is mostly European and the classes about Asian work are electives). His short film, "Pinball," is a modern folk story centered around an immigrant teenager who wants to participate in a school bus race at his local speedway. It's a fish-out of-water-tale that was inspired by all the time Naveen spent riding buses when he lived in Los Angeles. Naveen also worked on a documentary about Eric Garner's family for AJ+. He says films like that challenge him in different ways — as a filmmaker and as a person. "It's so hard, especially when people are recounting stories of such pain," he says. "You just want to like, put your hand on their shoulder and be a little bit more human. I'll try and kind of nod to them and like, understand that I am not hiding behind this camera. I do hear you."
  • Uyen Nguyen | 'You keep things within your family'
    Uyen Nguyen is a social worker and therapist. She's also Vietnamese American. And those things can feel at odds with each other. "The mentality is that you keep things within your family," Uyen says. 'I remember trying to find a Vietnamese word to translate what I do for a living and that's difficult because it's not a common thing." This week, Uyen and host Charlene Buckles share some of their own family stories and talk about trying to heal from generational trauma and break through the stigma of seeking mental health care — and in Uyen's case, providing it.
  • Danni Quintos | 'Disentangle yourself from your historical self.'
    Sometimes you expect to talk about poetry and knitting, but you end up talking about disentangling race, love and relationships. Or at least you do if you're Dan Wu and this week's guest, Danni Quintos. Danni is an Affrilachian poet, a mom, an educator, and a knitter. She lives in Lexington. On this week's show, Danni and Dan dive into what it's like to interrogate your own personal and intimate relationships through the lens of what poet Claudine Rankine calls your "historical self." Oh, and they also talk about poetry and knitting... eventually.
  • Sarah Trainor Graves | 'Four Typed Lines'
    After the Korean War, there was a sudden increase in Korean-born babies being adopted by families in Europe, Canada and the United States. By the late 1990s, that number had reached over 200,000. Now those babies are adults, grappling with big questions about identity and belonging. Sarah Trainor Graves was born in South Korea, adopted by an American family, and raised in Louisville. In this episode, she talks with Charlene Buckles about how having kids can change the way transracial adoptees think about their own roots.
  • Dr. Neeli Bendapudi | 'United We Stand'
    Dan and Charlene sit down with University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi. She’s the first woman and the first person of color to lead the university. Dr. Bendapudi was hired after a series of scandals -- not an unusual scenario for women and people of color taking on leadership positions. “It’s called the glass cliff,” she says. “Their likelihood of success is less because they’re not walking into something that’s smooth sailing.”