Mam’s Bookstore: An Intimate Community Space for Asian Americans

May 8, 2024

Listen to my interview with Sokha! 

During spring break of this year, I had the opportunity to interview the owner of Mam’s Bookstore, Sokha Danh, with the help of Ground Zero Radio. If you’re still unfamiliar with Mam’s Bookstore, (which is named after Sokha’s father, Mam Danh) they are “the only independent Asian American bookstore in Seattle and the entire Pacific Northwest.” You can also read Sokha’s in-depth statement about why he thought Seattle’s CID needed an independent Asian American bookstore on Mam’s website!

Opened seven months ago in Seattle's Chinatown/International District, they have stayed committed to their vision of creating “a physical space in the community that uplifts Asian American voices and perspectives. We see ourselves as a community ‘living room’. We want to see the community engage authentically with themselves and each other in this space. We want the bookstore to be a place to have fun, enjoy good conversations, explore new ideas (or maybe revisit old ones!), and where all Asian Americans feel heard and seen.”


Before Sokha even thought of running a bookstore in a region where bookstores have become a community norm, he worked for the CID Reservation and Development Authority and later transferred to the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhood. The love for his family, for the CID community, and for Asian American books would eventually inspire him to open up Mam’s after being surrounded by community leaders like Ron Chew, the former executive director of the International Community Health Services Foundation, Donnie Chin, the former director of the International District Emergency Center, and “uncle” Bob Santos, who was the former executive director of the International District Improvement Association, the International District Preservation Authority, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Though Sokha and I dive into his personal rewards and difficulties about being Mam’s owner, one thing you will always hear him say in the interview is his continual gratitude towards everyone who has supported his vision of opening up Mam’s. He admits that while there have been a few challenges to overcome, he is strong in his beliefs that the CID and the Greater Seattle Asian American community will continue to come out and support their business.


“Honestly I still really don't know what I'm doing... I'm kind of just going for it!”


So when you walk into the bookstore, you not only feel a sense of home with the bright orange colors and retro aesthetics, but you are essentially walking into a replica of Sokha’s family home, one that is filled with unique Cambodian American experiences. And within the Greater Seattle Asian American community, Cambodian families aren’t represented in larger local spaces dedicated to Asian American culture and are often overlooked. But throughout Mam’s space itself, whether you’re glancing at the shelves or sitting down at the tables, there are physical photos taken from the ‘90s and early 2000s of his family during the different stages of their lives such as their migration from Louisiana to White Center as well as Sokha’s captured childhood moments with his siblings and parents. Its comfy atmosphere and playful energy will cause you to experience time like a kid again as you get lost in the stories told by the people around you, hoping they’ll tell you another campfire story before you go to bed.


Stop by Mam’s, 608 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104, if you’re in the area or if you’re looking for a good Asian American read. Sokha hopes to someday open Mam’s everyday, but for now, these are their open dates and times: 4-7pm on Fridays, 10am-7pm on Saturdays, and 10am-5pm on Sundays!

And if you’re interested in listening to the entire interview with Sokha and I, you can listen to it here!

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