Scott Simon speaks with Lucy Yu, owner of a new bookstore in New York City that highlights Asian American literature and the works of immigrant authors.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
A new bookstore opens in New York’s Chinatown, showcasing the works of immigrant authors, especially Asian Americans. His name is Yu and Me Books – Yu spelled YU in recognition of the owner’s last name, Lucy Yu. Lucy Yu now joins us directly from her store. Thank you very much for being with us.
LUCY YU: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Scott.
SIMON: How’s business going this holiday season?
YU: It’s really great. I was super excited and actually overwhelmed by the number of people who were able to come and support my store. So it’s wonderful to see so many new faces and how thrilled they are to have me in their neighborhood.
SIMON: Hmm. You are a chemical engineer by training. Why open a bookstore?
YU: It’s a bit of a career turning point, from chemical engineering to owning a bookstore. But from a chemical engineering perspective, I mean, I just realized that career just wasn’t for me. And my passion has always been in the books. I grew up as an only child, so my best friends were books. I have always found so much love, care and family in stories and in books. And so I wanted to create a space where everyone can feel seen here and everyone can feel at home.
SIMON: And what do you want Yu and Me Books to do that other bookstores don’t?
YU: I think what I really want when people walk into the bookstore is just to see the diversity of authors and stories that I have. I focus a lot on immigrant stories, a lot on people who can feel different and who maybe didn’t always feel like they belonged. And I think having that portrayal and seeing a lot of titles with stories like that on the wall will make everyone feel welcome when they come in.
SIMON: And we should explain – when we’re talking about American literature of Asian origin, not just East Asia, but also, I guess, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
YU: Exactly, yeah. And, you know, I want to focus on black writers, native writers, Latin writers as well – so going beyond Asian Americans and really reaching out to many other cultures as well and many other people to have a diverse range of titles.
SIMON: Tell me about your clients so far.
YU: They’ve been – honestly, it’s been, like, a full lineup of customers. I have children here. I have older seniors who have been in Chinatown for many years. Someone walked in, and they were like, yeah, my family was born in Chinatown since the 40’s. And they’ve had generations of people in Chinatown. I think everyone who came was really excited to see a bookstore here. It meant so much to me, to be part of a community that welcomed me with open arms.
SIMON: Is there a book or two that you would like to recommend this holiday season?
YU: Absolutely. I have four very good titles. The four tracks are “A Beautiful Country” by Qian Julie Wang, “House Of Sticks” by Ly Tran, “The Mountains Sing” by Que Mai Nguyen Phan then “Crying In H Mart” by Michelle Zauner.
SIMON: Lucy Yu, a chemical engineer who owns Yu and Me Books in Chinatown, Manhattan, thank you very much for being with us.
YU: Absolutely. Thank you very much, Scott, for inviting me.
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