On West Squantum Street in Quincy, a sunflower-yellow storefront invites you to grab an ube latte and pick up a new book.
Panethnic Pourovers, an AAPI-oriented nonprofit that is part-café and part-library, opened Oct. 21. The interior is quaint and narrow, with bookshelves on the left and tables and cushioned stools on the right. The bright yellow walls feature culturally significant murals painted by local artists. At the back of the shop is a café window where you can order items like siopao, lumpia, pandesal, furikake bagels, and matcha lattes.
Founder Emily Goroza, 26, wanted Panethnic Pourovers to serve a cross-section of AAPI residents.
“It’s basically a community center where people can come together, bringing together different cultures, especially Asian American cultures,” Goroza, who is Filipino-American, said. “That’s kind of where the name Panethnic Pourovers came from.”
Combining cultural food and literature, the café library seeks to help customers celebrate and nurture their identities and encourage non-AAPI individuals to engage with the communities. The space will also operate as a politically engaged forum for free workshops, and programs such as translation services, technology rentals, and a book club, according to Goroza.
“Maybe someone needs a translator to help them fill out a form, and translators are expensive,” Goroza said.
Goroza, a former software engineer who lives in Milton, opened the café library in Quincy because of its prominent Asian population. The 186 West Squantum St. location was ideal because it’s accessible by both the MBTA and car.
Panethnic Pourovers describes itself as anti-capitalist and aims to support low-income community members. The café functions with specific menu prices as well as through a pay-it-forward system, in which individuals can purchase items for future customers. For example, an individual may pay forward an iced coffee or pastry for $5. These items are written on cards displayed on a chalkboard, labeled as a food fund, and any patron may select a card to exchange for goods. The nonprofit plans to ensure the food fund is always available, regardless of donations. The location also offers a small food pantry of nonperishable foods.
“If you can afford to pay for your meal or your drink, then you should, but if you can’t, we want you to be able to still eat,” Goroza said.
The library operates through a membership program with no fees for overdue or lost books. They are working toward an online system for tracking the books’ availability, but said they won’t be strict about tracking patrons’ identities.
“We want people to know that we trust them,” Goroza said.
The shelves carry donated books written primarily by and about the AAPI community. The curation spans contemporary fiction, fantasy, young adult, manga, memoirs, history, political theory, LBTQIA+, and international books. Titles include “Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata, and “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir.
Goroza said the library is dedicated to “anything by Asian American authors, anything that addresses historical issues,” “books of any progressive topic,” and books byauthors from other historically marginalized communities. Readers can find works by Frantz Fanon, Maya Angelou, Octavia E. Butler, Langston Hughes, Mariana Enríquez, and Khaled Hosseini.
The staff have open dialogue about the books in order to make sure the library collection is representative of the organization’s ideals, said co-librarian Mercy Clemente. The staff also work to verify the books’ historical and cultural accuracy, according to their website. Clemente, a Korean adoptee, is especially proud of the variety of non-English language books.
“I feel like I’m providing things that I would have asked for when I was younger, including books in my original language,” Clemente said. “We hope to expand the non-English-language section books a ton more because of Quincy being a very multilingual city.”
Panethnic Pourovers started from a desire to create a tangible community impact. Goroza describes herself as a politically active individual who often discussed social issues with friends and donated to causes but wanted to take more substantial action. In February, she started planning to open the café library with people in her close circle and posted about it on Instagram. A successful Kickstarter campaign in the spring yielded over $10,000 that went toward initial renovations.
Goroza emphasized the nonprofit’s dedication to education and cultural connection. She said she’s had her Filipino-American identity discredited because she doesn’t speak Tagalog fluently and that Panethnic Pourovers’s library could be a resource for people like her to feel comfortable in their learning process.
“I want us to be a space where people can make mistakes and learn from it,” Goroza said.
Abigail Lee can be reached at email@example.com.