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Radio Host Aims to Shatter Stereotypes

As early as grade school, Kailin Liang was typecast. Much of it, she said, was the result of her reluctance to draw attention.

“When I was in elementary school, I was very shy, never said anything, so quiet and cute . . . that whenever they had special events where they needed someone to dress up as a Chinese doll, I would get picked,” said Liang, a Chinese-American born in Taiwan and raised in Southern California.

To counter that image, Liang began to write poems, which sometimes were published in her school’s newsletter or paper. Soon, she said, teachers were encouraging her to write and even to read her work aloud to the class.

Enjoying her new-found self-confidence, Liang went on to participate in school-sponsored plays and dramas.

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“Through poetry and drama, I found my voice,” said Liang, 21, who is studying social ecology and drama at UC Irvine.

Her penchant for performing eventually led Liang to help design the format for UCI’s first radio show about Asian issues.

Titled “Bridges,” the program is staffed solely by Asian students. The 30-minute show, which airs every Thursday evening on KUCI, spotlights issues of interest to Asian-Americans.

Liang said she and two other students came up with the idea for such a show to help shatter stereotypes.

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“Basically, our radio show is designed to give students a forum to voice our opinions to show that we’re individuals with more than just different names and features,” said Liang, who is the host of the show.

The program typically presents guests debating an issue. One recent show that drew much heated responses from listeners dealt with Asian writers who accused their peers, such as best-selling author Amy Tan, of penning their way to the top by stereotyping minority characters.

“We just want to show that minority issues, too, have both sides that need to be heard and discussed,” Liang said.

Lately, Liang has been contacting area stations to discuss the future and expansion of “Bridges.”

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“I have a lot of plans for our show and I would like to see it get picked up by cable television,” she said. “That way we can even reach a wider audience.”

For now, she said, she wants the program to generate enough interest to spur other minority groups at UCI to start their own cultural shows. From there, she hopes that “Bridges” will start a trend on campuses nationwide, she said.

“The main thing is to get the idea out about an Asian-American program, produced by a crew of Asian-American students,” she said. “Soon, hopefully, other college stations will hear about us and pick up the cue and have the confidence to want to have their own shows.”

“Ours is such a culturally rich ethnic group, and the younger Chinese-Americans are finally getting loud, and we need to get the message out,” Liang said. “It’s the very first positive step to break away from the mold we’ve been placed in over the years.”

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