The first Asian American woman-owned bookstore arrived in New York City at the end of 2021 in the midst of the pandemic. Lucy Yu, founder and owner of Yu & Me Books, spent a year renovating a funeral home supply store to house her business. The bookstore holds over 1600 titles and is located in historical Manhattan Chinatown. Yu curates the book selections herself with offerings from diverse voices, highlighting immigrant stories. These voices not only come from Asian authors, but also from Black, Indigenous, and Latinx authors, so that those who have always felt "othered" feel represented.
This is the kind of bookstore we wished we had growing up when schools and libraries in the U.S were void of stories about the Asian diaspora and history about other cultures. The cozy space hosts book signing events and even has a small barista section where coffee is served. You’ll also find merch, including our very own #CHIMMI t-shirts, of which sold out in a week!
We paid Yu & Me Books a visit and from the moment it opened for business that Saturday morning, it was clear that it was a neighborhood favorite. Fortunately, we were able to catch up with the busy chemical engineer turned bookstore owner on what it took to open her dream bookstore.
What was the inspiration behind Yu & Me Books?
The inspiration was being able to relax in a friend's living room while sharing stories I wish I could've given to younger me!
What was the journey like in getting Yu & Me Books up and running?
It was a whirlwind roller coaster ride, especially never having run a business myself or having any prior experience in the book industry. I really had to start from Googling "how to open up a bookstore" and that's when it began! I started collecting books [for] over 1.5 years that ended up filling the majority of the apartment (my partner was really excited when we didn't have to trip over books anymore to get to our desks). There was so much self doubt and fear in the process, but I'm really proud that my passion & determination pushed me to open the store.
Why are immigrant stories and literature from the Asian diaspora important to you?
It is my story and my mom's story, and I spent so much time growing up lonely without these stories yet I was hungry for them. Now being able to have so many of these stories on my shelves means the world to me and to my future kids that will be able to see representation.
What book are you reading right now?
I just finished Communion by Bell Hooks and wow was I Hook-ed ;)
What are your top 3 books that you recommend?
Such a tough question and I feel like this changes every time I get asked this! But at the current moment:
- A Little Life
- A Place For Us
What are your future goals for Yu & Me Books?
I am such a short term thinker - if someone told me 5 years ago that I would be opening up the bookstore I've always dreamed of, there's no way I would've believed them! My short term goal is to make someone feel seen, feel joy, and feel a little less alone.