Located in New York City’s Chinatown, you’ll find Yu and Me Books, the first Asian American woman-owned bookstore in the city. The shop not only celebrates stories by Asian and immigrant authors, but also provides a place for healing and support for the community. You can stop in to browse books or attend their many events, which have included author readings, as well as gatherings to remember those lost to anti-Asian violence. Lucy Yu, the bookseller behind the warm and welcoming space, graciously answered a few questions about her journey.
Kathryn Monaco: Why did you decide to open Yu and Me Books?
Lucy Yu: It’s always been a dream of mine to open up a bookstore! I always wanted to see stories like mine, my mother, and my grandmother on the front shelves at bookstores. After we have all experienced so much grief in the last few years, I have come to the realization that life is short and I wanted to focus on starting a community bookstore that would bring me the most joy. I can’t believe it’s been open for almost half a year!
KM: Were books always a part of your life?
LY: Absolutely! As an only child – books became some of my best friends growing up. I found so much friendship, love, and companionship in reading other stories and it was an accessible way to travel outside of my life & perspective at any moment. I don’t think I’ve ever gone anywhere without at least one book on me (I feel naked and exposed when I don’t have one)!
KM: Is there a favorite event you’ve hosted at Yu and Me so far?
LY: It’s so hard to choose just one – I’ve truly loved them all! One of my favorites was an event that just happened recently with Neema Avashia who wrote Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place. Hearing her read from her book just really brought the book to life in a way that was so magical. The conversations that we had during the event were so thoughtful, raw, honest, and warming. It felt like we were all talking with each other in a friend’s living room, so I feel so thankful to have been able to share that moment with everyone there.
KM: Could you share the meaning behind your bookstore name?
LY: To anyone that knows me, they will say that I will not stop making puns (even if they aren’t funny anymore. Or rather especially when they aren’t funny anymore). So the name is first and foremost a pun with my last name (Yu) in it. I wanted to have a name that emphasized the conversations and communication I would love for people to have with each other in the store. It is the act of sharing stories between you and me that I was aching for. In addition, the initials (YM) are my mother’s initials because I couldn’t have created this without all that she’s gone through raising me as a single mother.
KM: What are you reading right now?
LY: I am reading WAY too much right now without finishing anything! It’s a problem! But currently crying while reading Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong on top of You’ve Changed: Fake Accents, Feminism, and Other Comedies from Myanmar by Pyae Moe Thet War and I Guess I Live Here Now, a new debut book by author Claire Ahn!
KM: Thank you so much, Lucy!