Lucy Yu Found Home in Books
Breaking bread with Lucy Yu, the owner of Yu and Me Books—New York City's first female owned Asian-American bookstore. Take a look at why she started her own bookstore, what is on her reading list and where she finds cooking inspiration.
Welcome back to Breaking Bread, Brightland's editorial series that fosters dialogues with creatives, makers and artists who inspire us. Our latest installment features Lucy Yu, founder and owner of Yu and Me Books, the first female owned Asian-American bookstore, cafe and bar in New York City that showcases diverse voices with a focus on immigrant stories. Lucy's carefully curated books and upcoming offerings of beer, wine and coffee are cultivating a safe community space to sip, read, and converse. We recently spent the morning with Lucy at her warm, welcoming bookstore in Chinatown for a delightful coffee—read on to learn about how and why she opened her shop.
How do you describe what you do?
I am the owner of Yu and Me Books, the first female Asian-American bookstore in NYC. What this really means is a ton of packing and unpacking boxes, marketing, website building, and of course, picking out books! It's a one-woman show at the moment but I am having so much fun learning all aspects of starting my own business!
What first drew you towards the literary space?
I've always found home and friendships in books growing up, and it's always been a safe space for me to be with a book. I always had a book with me everywhere I went, and it's something special to be able to travel into someone else's life or story whenever I wanted to. My dream was to create that for immigrants and children of immigrants, and for people that looked like me to have representation whenever they did travel into a different world while reading.
What led you to open Yu and Me Books?
Especially after the last two years and the unfortunate loss of one of my best friends, James MacDonald, I realized how short life was. I felt a strong sense of urgency to do what I always wanted to and felt that I was running up against time. James always followed his dreams and passions and he continues to inspire me to do that every day. I also have a book shelf dedicated to the books he loved, that we shared, and ones that I think he would've liked. My dream was to see more representation of stories from writers of color and immigrant stories because I never had that growing up and I can't believe we've been open for almost 2 months!
What is your process for sourcing books to feature at the shop?
It usually involves a glass of wine and research at the end of a long day! I try to have a wide range of options for works written by authors of color because I think many of us have been so hungry for that. There's been some deep bookstagram rabbit holes that I've gone into to find some wonderful picks! I also love the app Storygraph that gives wonderful recommendations and data analysis based on current reads!
What is on your reading list right now?
My ever growing TBR is both the most exciting and daunting list I have at the moment! Here's a couple of my next reads that I'm really excited about: The Human Zoo by Sabina Murray, Pop Song by Larissa Pham, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Black Indian by Shonda Buchanan, and She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.
What dishes currently nourish you?
Nothing really beats a homemade sesame or dan dan noodle dish with a generous drizzle of Brightland's chili oil on top! Also anything with an air fried tofu on top (I'm excited to play with some spicy & sweet marinades with Sriracha + Brightland's Kauai Honey)!
What does “living in a golden state” mean to you?
The beauty of books is that you can live in another world anytime you want to, and that to me is a direct translation of always being able to live in a golden state!