Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Malinda Lo. Dutton, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-525-55525-4
The year is 1954, and American-born Chinese 17-year-old Lily Hu, a rising senior at San Francisco’s Galileo High School, discovers the existence of the Telegraph Club nightclub by chance: via an ad in the Chronicle featuring a Male Impersonator. Lily secretly gathers photos of women with masculine qualities; she’s drawn toward “unfeminine” clothing and interests such as chemistry, engines, and space. Dawning recognition of her lesbianism comes alongside a budding connection with Kathleen Miller, a white classmate. But openly exploring queerness isn’t an option—not with her mother touting “respectability,” and society’s limited perception of Chinese-Americanness as either “China doll” or “real American”-adjacent, and especially not amid McCarthyism—during which Chinese people, including those within Lily’s close Chinatown community, are targeted as Communist sympathizers. As Lily falls deeper in love, though, she must work to balance the shifting elements of her identity with a landscape of sociopolitical turmoil that will resonate with contemporary readers. Lo incorporates Chinese food and language, appending explanatory footnotes for romanized Cantonese and Mandarin terms and characters. Smoothly referencing cultural touchstones and places with historic Chinese American significance, Lo conjures 1950s San Francisco adeptly while transcending historicity through a sincere exploration of identity and love. Back matter includes an author’s note explaining Lo’s personal connection to the story. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 01/20/2021
Release date: 01/01/2021
Genre: Children's
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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