I read Last Night at the Telegraph Club for our Cannon Book Club to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage month. The YA novel is part historical fiction and part romance. It was a powerful story of coming of age and sexual awakening. It’s also a captivating window into what life was like for 1950s Chinese Americans and the LGBTQIA community.
We meet shy Chinese-American student Lily Hu who loves studying math and science. She likes to fall into books and loves sci-fi, which I can relate to! When she visits the drug store, she often sneaks a glimpse at the forbidden lesbian pulp novels. Meanwhile, her best friend is worried about chasing boys at picnics. Lily finds herself losing touch with her friend. She becomes more curious about her classmate Kath. Kath suggests they sneak out and visit The Telegraph Club, known for male-impersonation performances. The club blows Lily’s mind and makes her realize maybe this is her community. She also begins to have feelings for Kath. In the backdrop, things become complicated for her parents as Chinese immigrants. We learn from non-Lily POV chapters how Lily’s family came to live in Chinatown. McCarthyism is in full swing. The raids are increasing in the city. The police arrest LGBTQIA people and those suspected of socialism. Lily becomes involved and shocks her parents. However, they seem more worried about the potential scandal. It puts a strain on her family relationships. In fairness, it does potentially threaten their livelihoods. We learn about how her p
Because I always procrastinate, I read this last minute. I ended up skimming a few of the non-Lily chapters. I did appreciate the other POVs but was more invested in Lily’s story. The final chapters were riveting when Lily refused to conform. I adored her aunt, who worked for NASA. She came in with some simple truths. I liked that someone in her family was in her corner. Malinda’s Lo research was so meticulous. Her blog is a treasure-trove of enlightening history of Chinatown and San Francisco LGBTQIA communities. I’d recommend picking this up if you’re a fan of queer YA stories. It’s also an excellent historical fiction piece if you’re curious about the 1950s from a diverse perspective.
And with that, I finally hit my 26-book review goal for Cannonball Read!!!