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Chinatown bookstore's reopening welcomed

By MINGMEI LI in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-02 10:56

he Yu & Me Bookstore in Manhattan Chinatown, owned by a Chinese American woman, reopened on Wednesday after a devastating fire in July, attracting old and new customers to visit. MINGMEI LI / CHINA DAILY

The reopening of an Asian American-owned bookstore in Manhattan's Chinatown following a July fire has received a warm welcome back from its supporters.

Yu & Me Books, described as the first female-owned Asian American bookshop in New York City, raised more than $369,000 for repairs since a tragic fire on July 4; it reopened on Wednesday.

"We are so excited to welcome you all back to our Yu & Me Books home," the store announced on Instagram. "We can't wait to shed tears, laugh loudly and open our hearts with all of you who have made us feel at home."

The fire in an apartment above the bookstore on Mulberry Street killed one of the building's residents. Smoke and water damage also devastated Yu & Me Books, destroying almost all its inventory and equipment, according to a GoFundMe campaign that store owner Lucy Yu set up to recoup costs.

During the restoration and renovation of the original bookstore, the business operated from a location within The Market Line, an underground marketplace on the Lower East Side, and several pop-up shops in the city.

"It was a bookstore I always wanted to visit, and I'm so happy that they were able to reopen," Charlotte Leinbach, a teacher for New York City's Education Department told China Daily.

Leinbach hadn't been to the bookstore before the fire, but she had heard quite a bit about its fate. She bought two books, the second and third in the series Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

"It's hard to find a lot of books in translation to these books, written in Japanese, translated to English, and those are not as common to find in other books," she said. "The design (of the bookstore) is really nice, and the layout is great. I love that they also sell used books. I love buying new books because it's fresh, it's nice, but it's always nice to see people in the community giving their books back and reselling and just passing them on."

She said she will continue to support the women-run small businesses that focus on people and authors of color.

"I actually came on the day of the opening, but it was too many people, too crowded, so I just haven't had a chance to look at it," Liam Li told China Daily.

"This place is unique. It's in Chinatown. As Asians live in New York City, I feel this offers the most space for the community. I understand like a minority in this society, is not easy to have a store like this," he added.

Asian American authors also are returning to the bookstore.

"I'm in the neighborhood a lot, so I went by when Lucy was here working on the store," Ava Chin, a Chinese American author who wrote about immigrant restrictions and her family's story about the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act, told China Daily.

"It means so much to the community to have this bookstore. I don't think we realized that we needed a bookstore quite like this until Lucy arrived. I can go in and run into people that I haven't seen in a while. You can sit down and browse a book and see what you want to buy," she said.

"I can't think of another bookstore, English-language bookstore that is focused on Asian American literature," she added. "You can write these books, but to have a space where they're promoting the literature and letting people know about your books and our stories is really important. So, I couldn't be more thrilled that she's back open!"

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