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New store Yu And Me Books in NYC's Chinatown highlights works by immigrant authors

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A new bookstore is open in New York's Chinatown, and it highlights works by immigrant authors, especially Asian Americans. It's called Yu and Me Books - Yu spelled Y-U in recognition of the last name of the owner, Lucy Yu. Lucy Yu joins us now directly from her store. Thanks so much for being with us.

LUCY YU: Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: How's business in this holiday season?

YU: It's been really great. I have been super-excited and actually overwhelmed with the amount of people that have been able to come in and support my store. So it's been wonderful to see so many new faces and just how excited they are to have me in their neighborhood.

SIMON: Hmm. You're a chemical engineer by training. Why open a bookstore?

YU: A bit of a career pivot from chemical engineering to bookstore owner. But chemical engineering-wise, I mean, I just realized the career just wasn't for me. And my passion was always in books. I grew up as an only child, so my best friends were books. I have always found so much love and care and family within stories and within 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 come into the bookstore is just see the diverse range of authors and stories that I have. I have a lot of focus on immigrant stories, a lot of focus on people that may have - feel othered and may have not always felt like they belonged. And I think that having that representation and seeing a lot of titles with stories like that on the wall will make anyone feel welcome when they come in.

SIMON: And we should explain - when we say Asian American literature, not just East Asian, but also, I gather, South Asian and Southeast Asian.

YU: Exactly, yeah. And, you know, I want to have a focus on Black authors, Indigenous authors, Latinx authors as well - so expanding beyond Asian American and really just reaching to many other cultures as well and many other people to have a diverse range of titles.

SIMON: Tell me about your customers so far.

YU: They've been - honestly, it's been, like, a full range of customers. I have kids in here. I have older elders that have been in Chinatown for many years. Someone came in, and they were like, yeah, my family's born in Chinatown since the 1940s. And they have had generations of people in Chinatown. I think everyone that has come in has just been really excited to see a bookstore here. That's meant so much to me, to be a part of a community that's welcomed me with open arms.

SIMON: Is there a book or two you'd like to recommend this holiday season?

YU: Absolutely. I have four really great titles. The four titles are "A Beautiful Country" by Qian Julie Wang, "House Of Sticks" by Ly Tran, "The Mountains Sing" by Que Mai Nguyen Phan and then "Crying In H Mart" by Michelle Zauner.

SIMON: Lucy Yu, a chemical engineer who owns Yu and Me Books in Manhattan's Chinatown, thank you so much for being with us.

YU: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Scott, for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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