Cover Image: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

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Member Reviews

I struggle with finding LGBTQIA books that my students want to check out from my classroom library. Books that are too romance-focused or identity-focused are often ignored. This one is a winner--the story is wonderful and can grab any reader. From the plot to the setting to the characters, my students enjoyed this book quite a lot. Love the historical fiction aspect.
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Though it took me the first quarter of the book or so to really be hooked on the story, I liked this book a lot. At the halfway point, the plot really starts moving, and the details throughout are excellent. Between the clothes people choose, to the different environments the characters find themselves in, all of it seemed really well researched. Maybe we didn't have to know EVERY street name the characters walk down, but that's ok. Having been to North Beach/Chinatown several times, it was fun to read about somewhat familiar places as they would have been in the early '50s. I also appreciated reading a YA book that felt real. Nobody has a twee name, the ending isn't tidy, and the treatment of romance (and acting upon it) felt true to life, no matter the decade. Definitely recommend this one
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When I first heard about this book last year, I knew I had to read it. Queer historical YA set in San Francisco? Yes, please! And I have to say living in San Francisco while reading this made my reading experience that much more memorable.

Lo does an incredible job of recreating San Francisco of the 1950s. Her descriptions of the City and food are vivid, cinematic, and just plain delectable. Because I knew the streets and neighborhood as they are in the present day, I was easily transported back to the 1950s of San Francisco Chinatown. I could picture myself walking down Grant Avenue eating an egg tart. I could picture myself walking in North Beach towards Coit Tower looking at the beautiful view of the bay. I could also picture the dirty looks and racist comments being slurred at me during all of this. And I didn’t have to try very hard given how xenophobia is still rampant in this exact same city and neighborhood today, 67 years later.

1954 was a time when girls got married after high school, same-sex relationships were seen as unnatural and the Red Scare paranoia constantly threatened the livelihood of the Chinese community. And Lo does a wonderful job of weaving these societal constructs into the intersectionality of Lily’s identity, our 17-year-old Chinese American protagonist.

Much to her mother and her best friend’s disappointment, Lily is not interested in finding a boyfriend and getting married. She wants to continue her education in STEM like her Aunt Judy, a human-computer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She wants to go to the Telegraph Club and see Tommy Andrews, a male impersonator. And as she develops feelings for her classmate, Kath, we see her discovering her sexual identity — one that is in direct opposition to her image of a “good Chinese girl”. Because a “good Chinese girl” is not queer and definitely not a Communist. Lo delicately examines Lily’s struggles with self-identity as a queer woman against the Chinese community’s struggles with combating xenophobia, and in turn, highlights the issue that every immigrant and person of color deals with — fitting in.

A beautiful story about self-discovery, first loves, and found family, this novel gives voice to those lost in history—queer Asian American women.
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This book lived up to all of the hype. I was so invested in Lily and her journey. Very rarely have I rooted for two people so much. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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Usually not a fan of historical novels but this one took me by suprise.i enjoyed it. The plot was amazing, the characters, were so good you get lost in the story and forget they aren't real.  Definitely reccomend.
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What a beautiful and powerful story. I hadn't read anything like this before and now I need more in my life. I was in tears by the time this story ended because I felt so deeply for the characters and their struggle. Very well done and I cannot wait to read what Lo publishes next.
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Immersive and enthralling. Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu is a "good Chinese girl" in 1954 San Francisco who dreams of a career in rocket science like her aunt. But when she sees a promotion for an upcoming male impersonator at the Telegraph Club and a new friendship with classmate Kathleen MIller -who has been to the Telegraph Club- starts turning into something more a new Lily begins to emerge and must walk a balancing line between the two.
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Stellar historical fiction for teen readers, with a coming-of-age theme and a heartfelt romance between two girls. Very deserving of the many accolades and awards it has received!
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This was just an okay read for me.  Nothing particularly special or anything.  I think this author and her writing, for some reason, is always just okay for me since I've read her previous books years ago and I felt the same - just okay, nothing special.

However, the one thing that did stood out to me was the historical element and how the MC was an asian person who was trying to hide the fact that she was not straight,  There were discussions about family expectations as well as the cultural differences as she navigated America during that time period.  I found that super fascinating and could see why the MC was terrified about coming out to her family.

If it wasn't for that, I would've given this book 2* or even 1* because the writing and the plot was just mediocre and not particularly interesting.
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3.5

This historical fiction book is set in 1950s in San Francisco following a young Chinese American girl as she discovers her identity as a lesbian and how there is no place in this world for a Chinese American and lesbian.

This author really did her research from using different Chinese dialects to historical landmarks and times. I really appreciated that and it really made the setting come to life. The characters were interesting however I found at times things were overly descriptive and I would start to get a little bored.

The characters were very well done. There was a wide variety of them and I really enjoyed the relationship between Kath and Lily. The ending was bittersweet it wasn’t a perfect ending but I also wasn’t a pile of tears on the floor.

I don’t think this book is for everyone, but I really appreciate the highlight of the LGBTQ community and the things that they faced in the 1950s. These are people alive today and some who are still struggling to find a place in this world. The struggles that Lily face discovering who she is while also struggling to find a place as a Chinese in America was very well done in this book.
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Didn't capture my attention and engagement. Interested in trying it again though and hopefully it will take.
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I absolutely love this book. I feel so bad for Lily when things came to a head with her family, but getting to watch her go through this journey of discovering a part of herself was a wonderful thing to witness.
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Last Night at the Telegraph Club is set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1950s. 17-year-old Lily Hu struggles to fit into her school and community.  She longs to work at the Jet Propulsion lab where her aunt works and is slowly recognizing she is attracted to women. When she and Kath, a classmate whose goal is to fly airplanes, connect over an ad for a male impersonator at the lesbian Telegraph Club, her life changes forever.  They sneak out and enjoy the scene at the club, as well as their growing attraction to each other. Fearing her family's disapproval and the very real danger of McCarthyism and the Lavender Scare, Lily struggles to reconcile her identity as a Chinese American and a lesbian in a time fraught with danger for both. The author's notes are a novella in and of themselves.  Lo (Ash) explains how Lily's family situation mirrors her own and provides an extensive bibliography and a section on "Lesbians, Gender, and Community." This beautifully written exploration of first love certainly deserves all the accolades it received.
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I've been to San Francisco a few times, enough to relish in the recognized places mentioned in the book. I haven't been there for the gay scene, unfortunately. This book makes me want to go back, and go back in time to witness the bravery of these women. This is a really well-done story of a Chinese American lesbian born and raised in San Francisco during the Red Scare. Lo does a great job blending pressures of the Cold War, racism, and growing up in a small community (within a larger community) into the plot. I will definitely be recommending this book.
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Teens already love Malinda Lo, and they will flock to this beautifully written novel.  1954 was a scary time for Chinese Americans.  Especially with the Red Scare, and especially if you loved the wrong person.
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This was a good sapphic book. The beginning was a little slow and I didn't much enjoy the ending but was a great historical read
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A beautifully weaved together story about growing up and accepting your queer identity at a time and in a culture where such things are forbidden. Lily is a compelling and heartbreaking heroine trying to take charge of her life in 1954, where it's not safe to be queer or Asian in public. Yet this vibrant and flourishing queer underworld allows her to bloom. The text is beautifully written and the story is perfectly paced to create a world worth lounging in for awhile despite the hardships.
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I really enjoyed this. The setting and the informative nature of the story were where it really shined but I liked the other parts too. You can tell that the author really did her research when writing this. I really appreciated how this took a look how Chinese immigrants were treated and looked at, especially during the time of the Red Scare, and intersected that with how Lily, a Chinese lesbian, would've been treated by those closest to her. My only issue while reading is that the flashbacks didn't add as much as I was hoping they would, but I still thought they were interesting. Overall I'd definitely recommend this.
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Another great book that I plan to use in my young-adult literature class, probably next semester. This is one I know students will love, given its combination of evocative historical detail and a LGBTQ+ romance.
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I do think it's really well written and researched and I love the dedication Lo shows to telling this story. The characters, especially at the Telegraph Club, felt like real people to me and I loved that. Where I'm not sold so much is on the flashbacks? I kept waiting for them to reveal something or tie together somehow, and yet they just felt disjointed and out of place.
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