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Processing the response

February 5, 2019

Waking up on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 Shirley was bombarded with numerous texts, emails and tweets all pertaining to one subject: her podcast. Shortly after airing, the story spread like wildfire. It was shared by thousands nationwide, including prominent figures like Seth Meyers, Mindy Kaling and one of Shirley’s personal favorites, Dictionary.com.

Shocked, Shirley said the newfound sensation was like “everyone was on the same drug.”

“It’s like I created this thing that everyone is reacting very viscerally to, but I don’t have that visceral reaction,” she said. “And everyone’s texting me about their drug trip.”

For Schroeder, the response’s speed was more surprising than the popularity itself.

“I knew it had all the makings of a really great story and be a story that would get a lot of attention, [but] we thought we’d slowly build up recognition,” he said. “Instead, it found everybody organically. That really speaks to how special that story is.”

Shirley’s former high school journalism adviser, Sara Whittaker, was one of many who fell in love with this piece.

“I cried and I laughed,” Whittaker said. “It was so well written and from the heart. It’s hard for so many people to be creative and thoughtful when they’re going through something, and I was just really impressed.”

Whittaker wasn’t alone in this sentiment. The national reaction to this piece was so impactful that Shirley’s story was named one of NBC’s 2018 “13 moments in Asian America that moved us.” 

“I felt like it was a huge responsibility to be on the list and I felt that I had immediately become a figure,” Shirley said. “I somewhat unwillingly became representative of so much more than just my own personal experience.”

With over two million views, Shirley’s story touched the hearts of readers worldwide, sending them on a rollercoaster of emotions as she made herself vulnerable to others. However, the podcast elicited a different reaction from Shirley’s family.

I somewhat unwillingly became representative of so much more than just my own personal experience.”

— Shirley Wang

“I liked the version of the story that I’ve experienced better, so I only listened to it once,” said her brother, Mason Wang ’18. “It represented my dad, not completely, but no story in 15 minutes can do that.”

Despite the overwhelmingly positive feedback, Shirley and Mason believe the podcast didn’t entirely encapsulate their father.

“I think my dad was different in his own ways, but he’s closer to a regular dad than you might think,” Mason said. “It’s not just your archetypical perfect, wholesome, Asian dad.”

“It’s just the nature of the story,” Shirley added. “There’s no way of actually summarizing a character in any context. No journalism article can.”

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