“A lot of people can feel a sense of third culture-ness.”
As a champion for people's stories across the Asian diaspora, Kyle Leung, host of podcast "What Kind of Asian Are You?" is used to uncovering the relationship of heritage and background on one's identity and sense of belonging. We are appreciative of his expansion of the definition of third culture to a feeling of "being in the middle", with no clear sense being anchored to places of origin or places of choosing. But perhaps it's Kyle's sense of responsibility to be a means for the precious stories to be captured that is the most impressive. What started as a pandemic project, Kyle's podcast has grown in importance, evidenced by his wide range of guests like Randy Lau and Jeremy Won.
About our guest: Kyle is a Hong Kong-Chinese Canadian diaspora that immigrated to Canada during his childhood. His whole life, he has always been curious about identity, third-culture diaspora stories, Asian migration stories, and Asian representation in media. As a result, he started his podcast, "What Kind of Asian Are You? Podcast" to discuss these topics with other like-minded Asian diaspora individuals. Through the podcast, he hopes to highlight, amplify and validate Asian stories worldwide. Listen to Kyle and his impressive list of guests: https://whatkindofasianareyou.buzzsprout.com/
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Welcome back to Root & Seed. A podcast about tradition seekers, who are sparked to explore, define and celebrate their family and cultural identity. I’m your host, Anika Chabra.
From documentaries to food, genealogy to song, and everything in between, this season we have definitely learned that there is no right or wrong way to document our histories, cultures, and moments of nostalgia.
Now, one theme that we didn’t expect to resonate with so deeply is the fact that documenting everyday stories is what would make us “feel all the feels”. The unsung heroes who may at first glance be known as just “Mom” or “Brother” or “Uncle”. These are the people who paint the fabric of our cultures. Sure, it’s super fun to hear the stories of famous athletes, politicians, or actors, but it’s Dad the high school athlete, Aunty the family matriarch, and the mom who took a chance with a small business when she was younger. They are the ones that shape who we are.
The everyday heroes from marginalized groups and recent immigrants, boy do they have stories and those stories deserve to be shared, heard, and preserved.
Now, there exist many podcasts that help capture and amplify the stories of everyday people. When we found one such podcast, “What Kind of Asian Are You?”, we were hooked instantly by the name. Hosted by today’s guest Kyle Leung, he explores identities and stories across the Asian diaspora.
While interviewing fellow podcast hosts can be nerve-wracking, Kyle and I connected instantly over our shared role and his professionalism. And we appreciate that he tells it like it is, straightforward, honest, and 100% fluff free. So we’ll let him introduce himself.
Hello everybody, my name is Kyle. I am a podcaster, we have a podcast called, "What kind of Asian are you?" A podcast featuring conversations about being Asian. So each week I interview a guest who's from the Asian diaspora. Either they were born in the west or wherever they're from that's separate from where their family originally was from mainly in Asia. So I've been doing that for close to two years, but me personally, I am Hong Kong, Chinese Canadian. Meaning I was born in Hong Kong and then immigrated to Canada specifically to the east coast, greater Toronto area when I was five and that's where I've been based and lived for most of my life. At least up to 25 before I embarked on a four-year kind of journey to Asia, where I taught English in Taiwan and also Singapore. That's me in a nutshell, I've also been back for a year, almost from Asia. Also, we had a new baby that is now almost six months old.
It’s no surprise that Kyle is used to introducing himself with ease and we were delighted in hearing about all his sides: professional, personal and family. Next, we dug into a really interesting conversation about identity.
There is one part of who Kyle is, a kid who acknowledged that he assimilated into western culture, but his family never hid the fact that they were from Hong Kong. For that reason, he had a really mature perspective on all the ways we can be “third culture.” Maybe it’s because he was neither local to the west or local to the east.
I would say the whole concept of third-cultureness identity has always been a thing. It has always been a thing because migration has been constant. Migration patterns have been constantly towards the east, toward the west, wherever. Northeast, southwest, it's just a matter of us not talking about it or not having that kind of mindset to talk about it because we were so much in survival mode during the older days where we just wanna survive.
You don't want to have to talk about mental health, identity, belonging because I think a lot of times, early on in migration you're just there because you want to make money. And then when the people there don't want you anymore you've already formed kind of a family there, then you feel like, "oh, why don't they think I belong?" That's when kind of the third-cultureness comes into play. So would I say that I represent our generation? I don't think so, but I would say a lot of people would feel similarly to me and the funny thing is a lot of people can feel the same way of like third-cultureness, like "oh, I don't fit into the dominant culture that I'm raised in," nor do I feel confident in the other identity that no I was influenced with. I've talked to a lot of people, especially from Hong Kong that had that kind of east and west combination of influences. They feel their culture in this too, but they never moved away from their family members' origin place, but they still can feel that. So I would definitely say anyone can feel that, it just depends how for them.
Kyle’s definition of third culture really got me thinking. My parents moved from India to Europe, and then to North America in the 1970s. They were met with stereotyping and faced the “you don’t belong” type of judgements. But Kyle’s parents who immigrated from Asia to North America in the 1990s arrived and settled in existing enclaves. It reminds us that the immigrant experience is constantly changing and evolving. Kyle’s experience was therefore “in the middle” grounded between cultures giving him a special vantage point to respect differences and to document a wide range and spectrum of stories. Kyle expands on his podcast next.
Yeah, for sure. So, the What Kind of Asian Are You podcast is a podcast featuring conversations about being Asian. The reason I picked to do a podcast is because I'm a podcast listener. I really like the experience of being able to listen to a podcast here, people's thoughts, perspectives and it doesn't have to be where you're learning through a podcast.
It's just like, oh, as long as you find entertainment, and joy from it, then it's good enough. I listen to mainly comedy podcasts or just podcasts featuring Asians about their Asian stories. I started it around 2020 September, so it's close to two years now and why I did it? I think it was during the time where everyone wanted a side hobby during the pandemic and everyone started, oh, I wanna do a podcast because what else is there to do, that's easy to do, accessible and low stakes. If people don't listen, people don't listen and you can just quit after three episodes and it's fine. I think for me it was also like the fact that I'm really into Asian stories. I want to hear, especially the stories of those from the diaspora because I find their migration history, the things that they do and the struggles, or like achievements that they have made since moving to wherever they are from very inspiring.
Also, I think it's the type of show that would help others, especially those that are still figuring out where they belong and what place they should be in. And it's also a great way to talk to people that you don't know and strangers and whatnot. I've been blessed that people say yes and end up having great conversations. And now I'm two years in and I don't think I'm stopping anytime soon. At least I hope, but it's been interesting because you would think like, keep doing this you'll run out of people to talk to, but in fact, I think that it's not that at all because there are still people just randomly reaching out to me, I want to be on your show and all that stuff. And they weren't even on my radar yet sometimes. So it's always nice to have people reach out to me rather than cold call people and be like, oh, I want you to come on the podcast if you're okay with that, then we can talk and whatnot.
So, overall I think the podcast is just me trying to learn more about other Asians and their stories and documenting them because I think it's very important to help future generations from the Asian diaspora on how to mitigate or how to interact with things that they're going to have to deal with in the future. That was not relevant even 20 years before.
I also want to point out that with this question, what kind of Asian are you? I think a lot of people are expecting that the reason I'm asking this is because I want to know what the specific Asian country you're from or Asian race or ethnicity. In all, honestly, I don't even need you to say I'm Indian or I'm Chinese. I'm just asking what kind of Asian are you? It's really open-ended, but for some reason, more people than not would then be like, I'm Chinese or I am this or that. You could just be saying, I'm a creative Asian, or I'm an Asian that's very athletic.
I'm okay with those answers too, but it seems like everyone in their mind already, and I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but always just struck off as like, oh, my ethnicity or my nationality. I feel like the nationality part is, I don't want to say problematic, but we need to look beyond the nationality part because it really doesn't mean that much at the end of the day, in my opinion.
Preach Kyle! You’ve heard me say it before, it’s not about checking boxes. Our identity is shaped by so many things, and we appreciate that Kyle is collecting a 3-dimensional spectrum of stories.
So let’s go deep on one. Of course, in Kyle’s podcasting journey he's had the opportunity to meet with some incredible guests. Speaking from experience it's impossible to pick a favourite, but I loved hearing a fellow podcast host recount a great interview.
I did an episode with someone, his name is Randy Lau. He's a YouTuber with the channel Made With Lau and that channel focuses on highlighting Chinese recipes from his Chinese dad that you know, was a chef for 30-something years now retired, and he's doing these videos because he wanted to preserve the family legacy through cooking the food that his dad had made all his life. And the reason why it really stuck with me with having him as a guest and also the overall conversation was that I got to know of him very early on in his journey in YouTube and content creation where I just felt so inspired from what he's doing because I really enjoy seeing people reconnect with their culture and also highlighting what they like about their culture. It doesn't have to be cooking per se, it could be anything and he's doing a great job really early on and at that point, when I reached out he had like 10,000 subscribers or something on YouTube. Not a small feat of course, but compared to now where he's at, it's really small if I had to put it bluntly. But I just cold-called kind of Facebook messaged him one day and was like, if you're interested, come on the show and we can talk, I didn't expect anything and he actually responded back and said, yeah, I'd love to do it and we got it done. It was a conversation where I learned so much of why he's doing it and the reason behind it. And it's so pure, so heartwarming because he just really wants to connect with his dad and make sure that the family recipe lives on in some sort of way. And to now where it has grown, where I think he's almost at 1 million subscribers and with a great following doing videos about his family's recipes and just moving the way that we should appreciate and respect the culture that we really love and highlighting so that it doesn't go away.
I think he's doing a great job because realistically a lot of Chinese recipes will most likely lose its way in terms of people knowing how to cook it because of the fact that a lot of these Chinese chefs, all these years have been cooking. They don't have people passing it down so now with Randy doing this, it allows the recipe to live on. It also allows for people who want to reconnect to their culture through food to reconnect and learn more about it. And for other people who may not be Chinese or of Asian culture or anything they could learn some good food to make and that's why to this day, I think I really appreciate that conversation a lot.
I think he inspired me to continue what I'm doing because he’s just trying to preserve legacy and for me, I'm trying to preserve the stories that are worth telling and those are Asian diaspora stories.
Naturally, we couldn’t help but appreciate that Kyle chose a story of a guest who is documenting their parent’s legacy and capturing the art of Chinese cuisine in such an accessible, memorable way. And so we went there next, I asked Kyle why he believes that documenting is so important.
I think it's very important because of the fact that if we don't document our stories, our history, our culture, it will go away and it will become something where our presence and our achievements and our contributions will be taken away. And I don't think that's fair because a lot of our contribution as someone that's not white or just as minorities has already been taken away. So if we don't document what we now have, our achievements and what we have done, then it's further no discrediting our place in this world and I feel like we have such importance that is already less cared for by mainstream media that I need to be and other podcasters or other media who want to focus on Asian stories or just minority stories to document all these so that it doesn't become a situation where we don't, we don't exist in people's mind frame in terms of like how great we are because I think if we don't document it they will never know and they will never seek it. As long as we can document it there's a way for them to find out then it's okay for me in my opinion because I just want them to be able to see it and whether they agree to it or not, that's another thing that I'm not gonna care for.
I just want it to be there in the open. If you appreciate it, great. If you don't, you can move on. There's many other forms of media you can consume and things to look at that satisfy your craving for what you care for.
Yep, Kyle nailed it with the simple sentiment to encourage us to document now, ensuring that we capture and claim our rightful place in history and the world.
Are you now motivated to document the stories of your loved ones? Get their story out in the air and hopefully captured for safekeeping. That’s what the Root & Seed Conversation Tool does. It prompts with questions you may never have thought to ask, and offers dig deeper questions to help the teller approach their response from different angles or perspectives. That’s what we did with Kyle, we dug deeper and got some really interesting insight into his childhood, but his answer about favourite food was the one we thought might make you most nostalgic!
I have interaction with the food of my culture and all that stuff because I'm a big kind of food guy. I really appreciate food, I like making food and all that stuff. But it would be any kind of roast meat over rice, that kind of thing. Like with Hong Kong kind of cuisine or just Chinese cuisine. Roast meat is a big thing and I grew up eating it. I still love eating it and it just feels so comforting and it's always reliable. You can get it and just dig in and it fills you up, but also really delicious.
The flavours and smells of comfort food can be so sentimental it brings up memories and are literal time travel devices ready to take us back and be there for us when we need it most. And the word “reliable” is such a great term because in documenting, you need something reliable that is a great future trigger.
There’s another thing he mentioned that I think is worth repeating, that so much has been taken away from marginalized and immigrant communities. Their stories are at risk of disappearing if we don’t capture them. Kyle was so humble about his podcast, but he is amazing and he is a fantastic host. Between his intention and his balanced perspective, it’s no wonder he has guests lining up to talk to him.
So, while Kyle and many others are documenting stories, we want to remind you that it’s never too late for you, no matter how novice you are, to document the story and achievements of a loved one. How about your own story? Write a note, record an audio clip, use the Root & Seed Conversation Tool, but get it captured so that those histories don’t get taken away so that one day, someone can find it because it will be a treasure to someone one day.
Perhaps we’ve landed on another connection point this season. Does nostalgia and documenting go hand in hand? Our next guest and season finale on documenting will definitely be one to catch if you’re looking for more of a playful fix on your nostalgia quota. We bring you Anish Bhalla who brings us back in time with his current project, The Bhalla show based on the intersection hip hop, basketball and the 90s.
Root & Seed is hosted by me, Anika Chabra, Executive Produced by Jenn Siripong Mandel and Edited by Camille Blais. Bye for now.
Hosted by: Anika Chabra
Brought to you by: Root & Seed
Executive Producer: Jennifer Siripong Mandel
Edited by: Camille Blais
Music credit: Something 'bout July (Instrumental) by RYYZN
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