Two people looking at a book closely. (Image: Cottonbro via Pexels.) https://www.pexels.com/photo/couple-holding-a-book-6263956/

Yu and Me Books Opens as One of the First Asian American Woman-Owned Bookstores in Manhattan

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Last weekend, chemical engineer Lucy Yu officially opened her bookstore in NYC’s Chinatown neighborhood, “Yu and Me Books,” after a soft launch on November 11. While food and drinks are on their way in the future, the opening of this bookstore-cafe makes Yu and Me Books one of the first of its kind in NYC, as it’s Asian American woman-owned and operated.

The Go Fund Me that Yu started earlier this year revealed that the name is not just a pun related to her last name but also an homage to her mother. She wrote, “—the initials YM are actually my mother’s initials to showcase the stories and love in different languages that have been passed down for generations.”

 

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A post shared by Yu and Me Books (@yuandmebooks)

Executive Director of the Chinatown Partnership Wellington Chen told the New York Times that places like Yu and Me Books are needed in Lower Manhattan. Chen explained that bookstores provide lingering traffic that results in patrons browsing other establishments in the area, which has slowed down since the pandemic began and hasn’t picked back up.

The area faces stacking issues exacerbated by the pandemic, such as children not wanting to continue their family businesses, a rise in anti-Asian violence/rhetoric, COVID-19 safety precautions (like no indoor dining), a significant drop in tourism to NYC, and fewer people coming by after work because many offices in Manhattan remained empty as work went remote.

Patrons share their experiences

For Yu, the effort in keeping Chinatown flourishing is a bonus; the shop is more space for her to pursue a dream. The final push to open the bookstore came after her close friend and reading buddy James McDonald died last year in an accident. Acting on the fleeting nature of life, she began the process of opening a bookstore cafe, and now Yu and Me Books has a section of McDonald’s favorite books.

Representation matters

One user discussed how meticulously curated the shop was and how it included Asian voices across the diaspora. There was even a shelf of books about and featuring Chinatowns across the U.S. This curation was a theme in praise of Yu and Me Books.

To this, Yu writes, “My dream is to create a space where we can dream together, share our passion, strive for change, and push systems closer to justice. There is a huge lack of representation within the literary space, and I would love to create a space where everyone feels welcomed and heard.”

If you want to support Yu and Me Books, but aren’t near NYC, check out their website and Bookshop landing page (filled with more curated lists).

(via The New York Times, image: Cottonbro via Pexels.)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.