What We Experience

Sharing untold stories of Asian Americans

Jeenah Gwak

Founder of 

Sharing untold stories of Asian Americans

What is the inspiration behind What We Experience, your online magazine?

On a trip to New York City with my mother in February 2020, a White man who seemed to be advertising for a night show shouted at us, “Don’t speak English, huh?” Growing up in Bellevue, I had always assumed racism didn’t exist. But as I reflected on this incident, I recalled memories from elementary and middle school: facetious confrontations of when strangers had noted that my eyes were big for an Asian person, and confusing memories of when gym teachers were taken aback when my athleticism outstripped their expectations for a small, Asian girl. With the surge in Asian hate crimes, I started to recognize the lack of proportional Asian-American representation in the media. 

How did it come together?

When I decided that I wanted to create a safe media platform for AAPI people, I texted Hope Yu (my co-founder), asking if she wanted to create a magazine with me. She wholeheartedly agreed, and within the next week, we had met on Zoom and begun planning and figuring out logistics for our magazine. 

Can you talk about a story or entire issue that stands out to you?

My favorite piece is from the very first issue (What We Experience: NOW), titled “The Model Minority Myth: Why Us?”  I explored the application of the term “model minority” and its implications, touching on various aspects of its connotation. You can read the article on our website.

What was it like to be featured on NPR’s Morning Edition?

I consider it one of the milestones in our journey. NPR, as most know, is our nation’s leading source of news. Hope and I were beyond thrilled but also very jittery. Thankfully, when it came time for the actual interview, we were able to conduct a flowing and calm conversation that we felt good about.

If you could teach the world just one thing about AAPI life as you experience it, what would it be?

I would emphasize that there isn’t one “Asian-American narrative.” More often than not, people of Asian descent are grouped into one, with the media perpetuating a single Asian-American narrative that supposedly encompasses the entire AAPI experience.

Do you have advice on advocacy and finding your voice?

Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Whether it be as significant as voicing your political standpoint or as small knowing what you want for dinner, do you for you. Speak up.

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