Yu and Me Books Opens as One of the First Asian American Woman-Owned Bookstores in Manhattan
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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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.
🥺😭♥️!!! GO SUPPORT YU & ME!! Lucy is so amazing and the space is welcoming and lovely https://t.co/cLHtrFcJ7V
— wendy xu 🌊🐉 TIDESONG OUT NOW!!! (@AngrygirLcomics) December 12, 2021
happy opening day and congratulations to Lucy Yu of Yu & Me Books in Manhattan’s Chinatown!! i picked up a couple of used classics and I’m now on the hunt for Hong Kong egg tarts pic.twitter.com/EXRWerRnAg
— Matt Ortile (@ortile) December 11, 2021
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.
I made it to Yu & Me Books, the first bookstore in NYC owned by an Asian-Am woman. Right away, I spot books by Southeast Asian, South Asian, Black and femme authors. The owner, Lucy, tells me she looks for “world building” books + books with “worlds connecting with other worlds.” pic.twitter.com/lHFzx8k1kn
— Sarah Belle Lin (@SarahBelleLin) December 12, 2021
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.”
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