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Clover Daydreams: Tacoma's Safe and Inclusive Book Space


By Zoe Perzo

Dr. Clover Tamayo (they/siya) is the founder and owner of Clover Daydreams in Tacoma, Washington. As a queer, disabled, Filipino American, Tamayo created Clover Daydreams with the goal of being a safe and inclusive book space and curates a collection that centers queer, trans, BIPOC, disabled, and marginalized voices. Tamayo sat down with me to discuss the origin of Clover Daydreams and the store’s unique environment and services.

“Clover Daydreams started as a dreaming exercise actually,” they explained. “I’m very open about mental health awareness and my own mental health journey, and I always struggle to dream of something for myself. I read Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey and reclaiming your dream space is something Hersey always talked about…”

“So ‘Clover daydreams…something.’ Clover daydreams…finding a four-leaf clover. Clover daydreams…a bookstore. Well, what else would I want for that?” Tamayo described how the vision grew from there.

“I wanted it to be safe and inclusive, and accessible and comfortable. And I wanted it to be in the neighborhood that I live in: South Tacoma.”

For readers who, like myself, don’t live in the Tacoma area, Tamayo filled me in on the history of the city. 

Tacoma sits some thirty miles south of Seattle, and gentrification in the big city has forced many residents to relocate to Tacoma. It is also historically home to several industries — most notably, its paper mill — and all the environmental impacts industry towns face.

“South Tacoma is the historically redlined area of Tacoma, and it is the one that didn’t have a bookstore,” Tamayo told me. “I wanted the people where I lived to be able to go to a bookstore and see themselves reflected on the shelves.”

The phrase “Clover daydreams” stuck and for the logo, Tamayo incorporated another bit of themselves — their tattoo. 

“The Clover logo surfaced on my body through a batok ceremony first. With Filipino tattoo ceremonies, I don’t know what’s going to be bestowed when I work with these healers until the day of.”

Tamayo was given a clover, in honor of their chosen name. In creating Clover Daydreams, they reached back out to the healer, Julay, and asked to use it as the shop’s logo. 

Thus, Clover Daydreams became a reality and Tamayo started doing pop-ups and appearing at literary events in May of 2023. They got started with one of the many unique features Clover Daydreams has implemented: steamer trunks.

“I have these steamer trunks that I converted into bookshelves and I would do pop ups all over Tacoma with them,” they explained. “I got them for like, $4, converted them into shelves, and when you close the door and pack it up they're secure.”

Originally, Tamayo made the choice to make travel easier and to avoid unpacking and repacking books at every pop-up, but the steamer trunks also proved to be easily memorable for Clover Daydreams’ customers! Customers who may not remember names or faces spot the steamer trunk displays and immediately recognize them from other events. (You can spot the steamer trunks in the picture at the end of this article!)

After several months of pop-ups, Clover Daydreams moved into a physical space in South Tacoma in January of this year.

“I leased a small space within Black Sheep Resale, a curated vintage clothing store and queer oasis,” said Tamayo.

It turned out to be the perfect partnership.

“They’re fantastic. They find clothes for everybody and every body,” Tamayo explained. “But they really wanted to have this community space, and the books really help with building that.”

Tamayo said they’ve seen many families with queer or trans identities move to Washington in response to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in other states. As a result, there are a lot of young queer people in the state in need of a community space. Together, Clover Daydreams and Black Sheep are providing that space.

The windows of the shared unit are draped with pride flags, and upon entering, customers can find a sea of clothing racks on one side and a community seating area (featuring a board game wall) on the other. At the back of the room? Clover Daydreams. 

Though the Black Sheep staff occasionally lend a hand, Clover Daydreams is largely a one-person operation. This leads to Tamayo’s second innovation and one of the features I was most curious about: self-serve hours.

On their own, Tamayo can’t staff the Clover Daydreams space the entire time Black Sheep is open. To bridge the gap in operation, they’ve implemented a self-serve system. Signs and QR code in the book space direct customers to take a book and pay online if Tamayo is not available. 

“I use Square, which has this fantastic option to order online and pick up at the store. I [also] have Venmo and Cash App available for folks to pay through that,” Tamayo said. 

Clover Daydreams is in a high-traffic area of the store (near the fitting rooms) and the book space often attracts unsuspecting customers. With the self-serve option, those customers can take advantage of the book space even when Tamayo isn’t there.  

Though they admit this service functions on the honor system, they’ve yet to have any problems with it. And while the system isn’t perfect, it’s been a success.

With the partnership between Clover Daydreams and Black Sheep going well, Tamayo is starting to incorporate more events into their schedule. 

“I'm really excited to start back up this book club, Favorite Quotes Book Club,” Tamayo said. They’ve held the club in the past, but it had been on hiatus for a while.

“You have a lot of bibliophiles that just tear through books. And I love them,” Tamayo explained. “But there are a lot of folks that are dealing with a lot of stuff — still find solace in reading — but their pace is going to be different. Anything from working multiple jobs, to parenting, to commuting, to dealing with health issues, can make reading difficult.”

For Favorite Quotes Book Club, members don’t need to read an entire book between each meeting. Instead, they can bring an excerpt from their current read, or another quote they find interesting, and offer it up for discussion. 

“It's just a great way to share the love of reading in an accessible way,” said Tamayo.

They’ll also be starting another book club in June — Decolonize: A Book Club, where members will read Decolonizing Therapy: Oppression, Historical Trauma & Politicizing Your Practice by Jennifer Mullan over the course of several meetings. The book tackles how colonialism has shaped how we approach mental health and Tamayo says they’re seeing a lot of interest in the book club.

On top of this, they frequently work with the Tacoma Public Library, with the Amara Family Resource Center, and with other community organizations. In all they do, Tamayo comes back to supporting their community and centering marginalized voices.

There are a lot of really cool things [in Tacoma], and we have a lot of things that need to be changed. But each community — queer, trans, BIPOC, disabled, or marginalized — they’re all working together to make it better here. So in my small way, this is why I've opened the book space. But the community is strong here, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

If you’re in the Tacoma area, stop by Clover Daydreams (and Black Sheep Resale) or visit the Clover Daydreams websiteInstagram, or TikTok!

Clover of Clover Daydreams stands in front of a bookshelf and gestures to one of the steamer trunks that has been converted into a bookcase.
Photo credit: Clover Tamayo