Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club cover
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malindo Lo

By Malindo Lo
Dutton, 2021
409 pages

Age 14 and older

In 1954, high school senior Lily Hu is everything her parents expect her to be: studious, respectful, responsible, and she never ventures far from her close-knit Chinese American community in San Francisco’s Chinatown. When the FBI confiscates her immigrant father’s citizenship papers after he refuses to reveal information about one of his patients they suspect of being a Communist, Lily has to be even more careful. But Lily can’t deny her heart pounds when she sees a newspaper ad for male impersonator Tommy Andrews, or that she’s thrilled by lesbian pulp fiction she reads surreptitiously in the neighborhood drugstore. Nor can she resist when her white classmate Kathleen Miller offers to take her to the Telegraph Club to see Tommy Andrews perform. Fake I.D.’s in hand, Lily and Kath begin to sneak out on a regular basis, becoming more and more at home in the counterculture lesbian community at the club. As the only Asian, indeed the only BIPOC, at the Telegraph Club, Lily endures regular micro-aggressions, including being called “China doll.” But the insults never come from Kath, and their growing friendship blossoms into love. Lily and Kath’s heady romance takes place at the end of the McCarthy Era, when the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare are twin threats alongside Lily’s fear about her family discovering she’s lesbian, and what happens when they do. It’s a heart-pounding romance delving into family, identity, racism, political repression, gender roles, homophobia, and the butch/femme culture of the 1950. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center