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Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the Red Scare. “That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the Red Scare. “That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?” Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day. "Lo's writing, restrained yet luscious, shimmers with the thrills of youthful desire. A lovely, memorable novel about listening to the whispers of a wayward heart and claiming a place in the world."—Sarah Waters, bestselling and award winning author of Tipping the Velvet and The Night Watch


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Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the Red Scare. “That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the Red Scare. “That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?” Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day. "Lo's writing, restrained yet luscious, shimmers with the thrills of youthful desire. A lovely, memorable novel about listening to the whispers of a wayward heart and claiming a place in the world."—Sarah Waters, bestselling and award winning author of Tipping the Velvet and The Night Watch

30 review for Last Night at the Telegraph Club

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 5 stars A historical fiction set in 1950's San Francisco, focusing on lesbian culture and the coming of age of a Chinese American? More of this please. In an era brimming with disruption and upheaval, the neon lights of a lesbian bar known as the Telegraph Club offer sanctuary to those in need of it. To a young girl questioning her identity, the dark nights and lively shows beckon her, bringing with them perhaps the very answers she’s been looking for. To do so, she’ll enlist the help of an unl ↠ 5 stars A historical fiction set in 1950's San Francisco, focusing on lesbian culture and the coming of age of a Chinese American? More of this please. In an era brimming with disruption and upheaval, the neon lights of a lesbian bar known as the Telegraph Club offer sanctuary to those in need of it. To a young girl questioning her identity, the dark nights and lively shows beckon her, bringing with them perhaps the very answers she’s been looking for. To do so, she’ll enlist the help of an unlikely friend and together they will go forth, unlocking the very secrets that the club has to offer them. This is a perfect storm of a novel. A book that broke me down almost as many times as it lifted me up. The descriptive narrative, reminiscent of other historical fiction I have read in the past and enjoyed, led me gently into its waters, before quickly amping up the drama. In this incredible story, Malinda Lo gives reference to an era not long past, and the lives of those that have been swept beneath the carpet of history. The central focus on the historical events of the time period, specifically the red scare and the bar raids of the 1950’s, were both well researched and thoroughly examined in their exposition. At its heart, Last Night at the Telegraph Club explores the challenging conditions associated with the era, yet manages to imbue a sense of warmth and belonging in every aspect of the novel. A feeling that remains constant, even during some of the darker moments of the narrative. One of the more compelling points throughout though is the main character's journey towards discovering her queer identity and the coming into her identity as a Chinese American. Especially as this was a time in America when neither were tolerated. Enter into all of this the exploration of the lesbian bar scene, which was just everything to me. I absolutely loved how it tied together with self discovery and a love realization. There was something so wholesome in Lily finding out that love had been by her side all along. It made my heart happy. Basically I adored everything about this, and can I just say, found lesbian family is superior to every other trope out there? I’m seriously expecting more of this in the future. Give the people what they want. I don't really have anything more to say except that this book means so much to me, and i'll be thinking about its ending until the end of time. I’m only just realizing how much I love bittersweet endings and books that leave things open ended, which this does beautifully. For those of you seeking a book that will leave an impact, look no further. Last Night at the Telegraph club is a book for those constantly in search of something, whose lonely hearts demand they answer its call. Trigger warnings: parental abuse, sexism, misogyny, racism, racial slurs, deportation, death of a loved one, homophobia, internalized homophobia, miscarriage.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    hi as a 2019 San Francisco lesbian I'm here for the 1950s San Francisco gays hi as a 2019 San Francisco lesbian I'm here for the 1950s San Francisco gays

  3. 4 out of 5

    - ̗̀ jess ̖́-

    MALINDA LO AND QUEER CHINESE HISTORICAL FICTION??? I'M HERE FOR THIS. MALINDA LO AND QUEER CHINESE HISTORICAL FICTION??? I'M HERE FOR THIS.

  4. 4 out of 5

    tessie

    i tried to write a review for this book when i first read it back in august, and have attempted to write several since then and,,put it off but now i’ve finished reading it for a second time i have no excuses left to put off writing a review for this so, first of all, if i were to try and rate this objectively it probably wouldn’t be a 5 star read. there’s definitely a lot of loose ends in this book, plot points that are very briefly touched on and then not spoken of again throughout the book. i i tried to write a review for this book when i first read it back in august, and have attempted to write several since then and,,put it off but now i’ve finished reading it for a second time i have no excuses left to put off writing a review for this so, first of all, if i were to try and rate this objectively it probably wouldn’t be a 5 star read. there’s definitely a lot of loose ends in this book, plot points that are very briefly touched on and then not spoken of again throughout the book. i feel like this would bother a lot of people so do be wary of that!! for me, though, this book was so special and important to me that i overlooked that i also think the reason i love this book so so much is because of the point in my life that i read this. as someone who spends uhhh half my life doubting my sexuality (because, like, comp het) this book that exuded lesbian culture? was everything to me like, as someone who spent a large half of the beginning of this year doubting my lack of attraction in men (because, i would like to repeat: comp het) i can clearly sense that since i first read this book at the start of august that has...actually stopped?? quite a lot?? because it’s made me feel a little (or a lot) less scared about being a lesbian?? it’s very hard to explain this without making it seem like i’m making an overly big deal of a book but!! this story really had a huge impact on me OK i loved the characters in this as well!! i can’t quite explain how much but!! i would like to meet them all pls i’m also kind of obsessed with books set in the early to mid twentieth century so like?? that with LESBIANS?? oh also the author’s note made me cry hahahaha i am fine also i love the ‘going to a bookshop after school each day to read a bit more of that one queer book they have because i can’t actually take it home’ thing because . 13 year old me says hi!!!! oh and how do i forget to mention the romance!! i loved it!!! honestly it was quite a small part of the book until very much towards the end??? BUT it was very gay and i loved it very much and i love lily and kath best lesbians the one thing i’ll mention that bothered me very slightly about this book is that despite it being so specifically about lesbian culture this book falls into the trap of a main character who is clearly written as a lesbian but!! never actually uses the word lesbian to describe herself. this didn’t make me like the book any less, because it is so so common but just wanted to mention this!!! anyway!! i love this book more than i can possibly say and i’m going to be reading it for the third time as soon as my copy arrives (hurry up pls @ the shop i ordered it from) and then probably make this review much, much longer when i think of even more things i adore about this book (what if i just,, listen to a chapter of the audiobook every night before i sleep,,that would be,,a very good idea) (also: me at the start of this review “right time to write a proper, serious review for the fave book’ the review “lesbians!!!!!!!! i love them!!!!!!! gay” )

  5. 4 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    rtc ➸ Trigger warnings for (view spoiler)[coming out themes, external & internalised lesbomisia, queermisia, heteronormative language, sexism & misogyny, racism & racial slurs, deportation discussed, and death of a father (hide spoiler)] . ▷ Representation: Lily (mc) Chinese-American & lesbian; Kathleen (li) Italian-American & lesbian; Will (sc) Chinese; Chinese & sapphic scs. Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instag rtc ➸ Trigger warnings for (view spoiler)[coming out themes, external & internalised lesbomisia, queermisia, heteronormative language, sexism & misogyny, racism & racial slurs, deportation discussed, and death of a father (hide spoiler)] . ▷ Representation: Lily (mc) Chinese-American & lesbian; Kathleen (li) Italian-American & lesbian; Will (sc) Chinese; Chinese & sapphic scs. Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram

  6. 5 out of 5

    micah ➳ canonicallychaotic

    ”rockets to the moon didn’t seem so far-fetched when kath listened to her. she made previously unimaginable things seem possible.” for me, there’s something so special about reading queer characters in historical fiction. a feeling that i can’t seem to put into words. one of feeling visible, feeling connected. feeling known, feeling recognized. feeling that i’m part of something so big, something that’s always been there. because queer people have always existed. even when we were told not to ”rockets to the moon didn’t seem so far-fetched when kath listened to her. she made previously unimaginable things seem possible.” for me, there’s something so special about reading queer characters in historical fiction. a feeling that i can’t seem to put into words. one of feeling visible, feeling connected. feeling known, feeling recognized. feeling that i’m part of something so big, something that’s always been there. because queer people have always existed. even when we were told not to. even when we had to hide. we have always been here. there is still persecution. there is still discrimination. there is still hiding. but we persist and we fight and we exist. but (possibly just due to the books i’ve chosen to pick up) a lot of the queer historical fiction i’ve read has been about white cis gay men. and then— last night at the telegraph club is about lily hu. about san francisco in 1954. about being 17 and the child of chinese immigrants. about discovering the lesbian nightclub scene with a girl who’s been there the whole time without you seeing her. about finding your place in these nightclubs, and being afraid of what that means. about falling in love when it’s dangerous to. my whole existence, is intersectional. i am queer, a woman, an asian-american. in telegraph club, this experience is reflected back at me, but distorted like a funhouse mirror—where the world is different, time turned back. there are ways i am safer. there are ways i am still in danger. the world has changed so much. we have come so far. but there’s still so much discrimination and pain for every facet of my identity. we still have some ways to go. one day our stories will be seen as historical. i hope for the future queer asian-american girls, the world is even brighter. malinda lo has crafted a love story. between two girls, yes, but also a love story to the queer women who came before us. a love story to asian immigrant parents who wanted to protect their children. a love story to the a past that is dangerous. a love story to the intersection of these things. when i closed this book, i wanted to break into sobs. i’m thankful for this love story to be told.

  7. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    (2.5) it's so authentically Lesbian and just exudes lesbian culture and the lesbian found family made me cry but i just didn't get along with malinda lo's writing (sort of expected, since i dnf'ed the last book of hers i tried) and i'm sad Rep: Chinese American lesbian mc, lesbian li, Chinese and Chinese American side characters, lesbian side characters CWs: period typical racism, homophobia and lesbophobia (2.5) it's so authentically Lesbian and just exudes lesbian culture and the lesbian found family made me cry but i just didn't get along with malinda lo's writing (sort of expected, since i dnf'ed the last book of hers i tried) and i'm sad Rep: Chinese American lesbian mc, lesbian li, Chinese and Chinese American side characters, lesbian side characters CWs: period typical racism, homophobia and lesbophobia

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adri

    4.5 Stars CWs: Some exploration of racism, deportation, xenophobia, homophobia, underage drinking, some graphic sex, brief mention of miscarriage, some use of outdated racial and social epithets (relevant to time period), some exploration of familial estrangement and disownment I'll just say it: this is the queer historical YA of my dreams. It manages to capture an impeccable sense of place and time while also celebrating and reclaiming queer histories. That is 100% my jam, and I think Malinda 4.5 Stars CWs: Some exploration of racism, deportation, xenophobia, homophobia, underage drinking, some graphic sex, brief mention of miscarriage, some use of outdated racial and social epithets (relevant to time period), some exploration of familial estrangement and disownment I'll just say it: this is the queer historical YA of my dreams. It manages to capture an impeccable sense of place and time while also celebrating and reclaiming queer histories. That is 100% my jam, and I think Malinda Lo absolutely nailed it. The story's intersectional lens is invaluable, especially considering the time period during which it is set. The 1950's in California were a very fraught time politically, racially, and socially. This was a time period where it was still considered unusual (and "unnecessary") for women to continue to their education. It was a time when interracial marriage was not yet legal, much less "same-sex" marriage or partnerships. It was when Red-Scare paranoia was reaching a fever pitch, and Chinese immigrants and Chinese-American citizens were being deported and discriminated against under the premise of being "Communist loyalists." As young, queer Chinese-American girl, Lily has to contend with all of these issues and figure out how to navigate a world that's very much against her. What will inevitably stick with me from this book is the way it easily could've been about trauma, repression, and the internalization of homophobia—but instead, the overarching feeling that stems from this story if one of warmth, belonging, and self-discovery. Make no mistake, it is a historically accurate narrative that addresses the all-too-real obstacles and hardships that queer people of color, especially, had to deal with during this time period, but it's more so about Lily finding ways to work around those obstacles and fighting for those few-and-far-between moments where she is free to express herself. It's about how those hardships existed, yes, but for every hardship, there was a way around it—there was a vibrant counterculture of queer people existing and thriving and loving each other. The story brilliantly captures that feeling of discovering where you belong, discovering safe spaces, and that surrender of allowing yourself to just take it all in. Those moments of Lily first entering the Telegraph Club and instinctually recognizing this dynamic, code-switching counterculture were intoxicating for me, because she's finally able to understand all the feelings she's been taught to deny and erase. More importantly, the Telegraph Club is a place that represents queer futurity and queer normalcy. For someone as young as Lily to see queer adults living their lives, forging relationships, holding everyday jobs, and celebrating their queerness out loud is life-changing. It gives her the confidence to stay true to herself, even if it would be easier to live out the "normal" life that's been laid out for her. To that end, I think one of the most effective themes in the story is an exploration of performance. As a scientifically-minded Chinese-American young woman living through the Red-Scare, Lily is constantly confronted with need to cultivate a certain "image." She has to be "a good Chinese girl" to keep her family happy, she has to present herself as "American first" in order to distance herself from "Communist sympathizers" in her community, and she has to keep her interests appropriate for "what suits a young lady." And, of course, she has to hide her queerness, which would be deemed as scandalous, illegal, and shameful. So she is constantly having to perform the role of the "perfect Chinese daughter," while also being encouraged to pursue and emulate whiteness, while also suppressing her authentic desires and feelings. Being able to "pass" in any given situation requires a certain performance, and because of that, performance is often a means of survival. As the story progresses, I think Lily is beginning to understand the tenuous relationship between "performing" and "masking," and she's learning where it's safe to drop that performance and just be herself. We also seen an aspect of literal performance at the Telegraph Club, with the headlining male impersonator known as "Tommy Andrews." This goes to show that while we may "perform" in order to hide or conceal, we also perform to lean into our authenticity and our differences, especially when our instinct to self-preserve tells us to pull back. Lily learns a great deal about living out loud, and how the most important parts of herself don't simply disappear when she occupies different spaces. Overall, this such a beautiful story of self-discovery, queer desire, and carving out space for yourself in a world that could never anticipate you. It's about tender first love, queer community, found family, and staying true to yourself even in the most trying of times. This is, by far, one of the best historical fiction books I've ever read, and I know I'll be recommending it far and wide for years to come!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cinda

    A compelling window into the yearning of first love and self-discovery from a lesbian perspective. The period setting in the 1950s after the "fall" of China to communism adds to the challenges faced by the protagonist, Lily Hu, who is coming to grips with her sexuality. A compelling window into the yearning of first love and self-discovery from a lesbian perspective. The period setting in the 1950s after the "fall" of China to communism adds to the challenges faced by the protagonist, Lily Hu, who is coming to grips with her sexuality.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vee

    Wordpress Blog | Twitter The cover of this book is absolutely stunning, but the actual story didn't have the same impact that the cover did. While I found the picture of life for a Chinese American girl in 1950s San Francisco fascinating, the story seemed to move at a snail like pace. I enjoyed Lily and Kath's relationship, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I found the Telegraph Club, it's performers and patrons more interesting. Thinking back on it, I can't really say who Kath was, she was Wordpress Blog | Twitter The cover of this book is absolutely stunning, but the actual story didn't have the same impact that the cover did. While I found the picture of life for a Chinese American girl in 1950s San Francisco fascinating, the story seemed to move at a snail like pace. I enjoyed Lily and Kath's relationship, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I found the Telegraph Club, it's performers and patrons more interesting. Thinking back on it, I can't really say who Kath was, she was very generic and aside from liking planes, was almost a dreamgirl-lesbian character designed to fit Lily perfectly. The ending of the book, and Lily's life after a major event, should have been a good chunk of the book I felt, not relegated to a discussion in the epilogue. The story doesn't really get interesting until the last 30%, so if the first 70% was cut down to expand the more interesting events, this could have been a 4 or 5 star read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I loved every minute of this historical YA about Chinese-American Lily falling for white Kath during the 1950s in San Francisco. It's an era of change and upheaval, and an era where the Red Scare still emerges to put those who are "other" into their places. Told in a few timelines, this family story is about immigration post-Chinese Exclusion, about the realities of being called a Communist, and about the ways in which living up to parental and cultural expectations in a changing world means put I loved every minute of this historical YA about Chinese-American Lily falling for white Kath during the 1950s in San Francisco. It's an era of change and upheaval, and an era where the Red Scare still emerges to put those who are "other" into their places. Told in a few timelines, this family story is about immigration post-Chinese Exclusion, about the realities of being called a Communist, and about the ways in which living up to parental and cultural expectations in a changing world means putting your true self in the dark. The inclusion of the Telegraph Club, a lesbian nightclub, was unique and the ways Lily and Kath build a found family through it are so powerful. Don't skip the author's note in this one. It's packed with historical context adding even more depth to the impressive story. Lo knocks it out of the park with her historical novel and once again, I'm so thrilled to see more and more girls of color giving the chance to star in historical fiction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)

    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight I fell completely and totally in love with Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It snuck up on me, too. At first it was fine, but I had no strong feelings. But somewhere around a quarter of the way through, I found myself wholly immersed and invested, and by the end I was having basically every feeling a person can have. I will try to explain coherently all the reasons I adored it! ►Lily You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight I fell completely and totally in love with Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It snuck up on me, too. At first it was fine, but I had no strong feelings. But somewhere around a quarter of the way through, I found myself wholly immersed and invested, and by the end I was having basically every feeling a person can have. I will try to explain coherently all the reasons I adored it! ►Lily was such an amazing character. She wants so badly to make her family proud, to be successful, to be a good person. But she also understands, after some soul searching and exploration, what she wants in life. It's incredibly hard, especially given the time period, for her to have both, but she is so determined to find a way. She takes risks, and it's so hard, but she goes for what she wants, and I respected that beyond measure. And please don't misunderstand- she's not perfect. She falters, and has flaws, but at her core she's simply phenomenal and I adored her. ►Lily and Kath together were equally wonderful. I could feel their romance seeping through the (electronic) pages. The tension, when they first became close, their actual romance, it all felt so very authentic. I couldn't help but cheer for them at every turn, and wanted so desperately for these young women to be able to be together without fear and hate. ►The historical setting was so compelling. When we first meet Lily, she's not a gay Chinese-American teen, she's just a Chinese-American teen. She discovers her sexuality as the story develops, but upon first encounter, Lily is in fear not because she loves Kath, but because her father is being questioned by some anti-Communism jerks (that is obviously the technical historical term, right?) and is worried about deportation, even though he's done nothing even close to illegal. Lily even has a scare herself early in the story, where she is at a gathering with someone accused of being a communism sympathizer. Add to it, gay rights are nearly non-existent in 1954. So as Lily is discovering her first love in Kath, and what that means for her, she has to hide who she is, and be worried about another of her identities. It is heartbreaking and infuriating, and Lily is beyond brave even though she should never have had to be. Also, please do yourself a favor and read the author's note. It's incredibly thorough and so well-researched! ►Lily now has to navigate a changing dynamic with family and friends. Because of both her relationship with Kath and her lofty dreams of going to space in the future, Lily finds herself clashing with her loved ones more than ever. Her best friend wants her to basically put on a dress and go to the school dance on the arm of some boy. Her parents want her to "tone down" her dreams. And Lily is over it, thank goodness. But, this doesn't mean it wasn't incredibly hard for her to face that her loved ones may not want what is best for Lily, but what is best for them.  Bottom Line: I fell in love with Lily, cheered for her through the entire story, and loved every minute. Highly recommend.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    CW: racism, micro aggressions, usage of slurs, homophobia, xenophobia I don’t usually gravitate towards historical fiction; even when I do, it’s been largely limited to romances or WWII European settings. But when I realized this book was about a queer Asian American girl in the 50s, I knew I had to pick it up immediately. And this was just wow. I have always heard a lot about the author Malinda Lo, how she is a pioneer in both bringing Asian American authors as well as sapphic fiction to YA mai CW: racism, micro aggressions, usage of slurs, homophobia, xenophobia I don’t usually gravitate towards historical fiction; even when I do, it’s been largely limited to romances or WWII European settings. But when I realized this book was about a queer Asian American girl in the 50s, I knew I had to pick it up immediately. And this was just wow. I have always heard a lot about the author Malinda Lo, how she is a pioneer in both bringing Asian American authors as well as sapphic fiction to YA mainstream, but I never got around to reading any of her works before. However, I now realize why she is considered to be such an inspiration. The writing in this book is beautiful and stunning - I felt transported to 50s Chinatown in San Francisco because that’s how powerful and vivid the author’s descriptions are. It’s both an exciting coming of age story of a young lesbian girl as well as a daily chronicle of life of Chinese American high school girls of the time - and I really loved how the author did justice to both aspects of the story. The story might feel mundane at times, but it’s still high stakes and there were so many moments where I was scared, happy, devastated and hopeful - it takes us through a gamut of emotions and it’s a true testament to the author’s skill. Lily is a typical Asian American child in many ways. She is a dutiful daughter like her parents expect, concentrating on her studies and socializing with kids whose families are acquaintances. But she is also an American who wants to be free and is ambitious enough to want to go to space and just wants to create her own destiny. In the midst of this turmoil of trying to fit in with both worlds, especially when she is not completely welcome in one, she also grapple with the realization of her sexuality - which is both thrilling and scary. But the author does such a brilliant job of bringing all these aspects of Lily’s personality to life and I loved her so much. Her complicated friendship with her childhood friend, a budding forbidden relationship with another young girl and just wanting to know more about this new community that she could possibly belong to - it’s all very vividly captured and made it very easy to empathize with Lily. The way the author explores various relationships, especially the ones between lesbian women whom Lily meets, who are trying to live their life and find places where they can be themselves, left a very deep impression on me. Having recently read a couple of books about Asian American history, it was very intriguing to read more about McCarthyism and the red scare of the 50s, and the author shows us how terrifying it must have been for the Chinese Americans of the time, who had dedicated their lives to be good citizens but still had to prove that they weren’t communist sympathizers, sometimes while realizing that anything they did would never be proof enough. What really surprised me was that there was also a fear during the time that homosexual was related to communism, and the author deftly explores how this would cause even more chaos in the life a young queer Asian girl, who is now doubly scared of being deported (or of her family being subjected to it) both for her sexuality as well as her ethnicity. The author’s note at the end goes into much detail about what inspired her to write this story and how difficult it is to find more information about the lives of girls like Lily. In the end, this is a coming of age tale of a girl whose stories are usually missing from the historical fiction genre - queer Asian Americans. As we all know that it’s even more difficult to be openly queer in Asian families, it’s really important that we get to read more of these stories - so that young Asian kids know that they aren’t alone. If you like YA or coming of age stories or just historical fiction, I highly recommend this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lea (drumsofautumn)

    This was absolutely fantastic and tugged at my heart strings a whole bunch. Hopefully review to come soon 💜 Instagram | Blog | Booktube Channel | Twitter This was absolutely fantastic and tugged at my heart strings a whole bunch. Hopefully review to come soon 💜 Instagram | Blog | Booktube Channel | Twitter

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hailey Hamm

    Wow This Book Was So Good I Loved The LGBTQ Representation That This Book Had And I Am So Happy That It Is Being Represented In A Good Way I Loved Kath And Lilly As Characters I Thought Their Romance Was Soo Cute I Loved This Book And You Should Read It

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 3.5/5 Stars I had been waiting for this book for so long and I'm sorry I can't give it a higher rating. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book in any way and there's no problem with it, but it just did not click for me. This novel tells the story of Lily, an American Chinese girl living in San Francisco Chinatown in the 1950s. It's a scary period for Chinese people who are scared because of the Ame The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 3.5/5 Stars I had been waiting for this book for so long and I'm sorry I can't give it a higher rating. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book in any way and there's no problem with it, but it just did not click for me. This novel tells the story of Lily, an American Chinese girl living in San Francisco Chinatown in the 1950s. It's a scary period for Chinese people who are scared because of the American government that suspects everyone of being a communist. The threat of being deported is real and looming over people, even Chinese Americans like Lily. Lily's a girl with ambitions, she wants to go to college and work to go to space. It's her dream and she wants it so bad. She doesn't care about marriage and children like everyone seems to. At school there's one girl who suddenly gets it, it's Kat and she has dreams as well. She wants to be an airplane pilot. The two girl are drawn together and start a friendship that later turns into a sweet and delicate romance. Being two girls in love isn't easy in the 1950s and so the two start to go to the Telegraph Club, a bar where they can show who they truly are with more freedom. Things aren't easy and the two girls are risking everything to be together, but will it be enough? Malinda Lo did an incredible researching job, there are actual additional reads suggested at the end of the novel if anyone's interested in some topics and wants to explore more. The author definitely knows what she's talking about and it shows. Her care in describing every little aspect in the novel is clear. I totally recommend this if you're looking for a YA book that's historically accurate and has a lot of good representation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Toya (the reading chemist)

    Honestly, this is the type of historical fiction that I have been waiting for. I am so tired of the WWII stories that only feature white cishet characters as if BIPOC and queer folks simply didn't exist. Anyways... It is evident from the beginning the sheer amount of thorough research that the author conducted and poured into this story. The story is set in 1950s San Francisco Chinatown. This is a time period where women stopped education after high school in favor of a traditional nuclear family Honestly, this is the type of historical fiction that I have been waiting for. I am so tired of the WWII stories that only feature white cishet characters as if BIPOC and queer folks simply didn't exist. Anyways... It is evident from the beginning the sheer amount of thorough research that the author conducted and poured into this story. The story is set in 1950s San Francisco Chinatown. This is a time period where women stopped education after high school in favor of a traditional nuclear family. Interracial marriage was still illegal. Same-sex relationships were viewed as perverse, sexual deviant behavior. And all of this is in addition to the Red-Scare paranoia that was deeply rooted on US soil. And the author beautifully weaves all of this together when telling Lily Hu's story. The Telegraph Club quite literally is the sanctuary for queer folks to come and shed the guises that they wear in order to fit in and conform to society. From the beginning, Lily's sexual identity is clear, but her suppression due to the need to be a "good Chinese girl" for her family and community as well as to avoid being the target of gossip at school was heart wrenching. So watching Lily change from being this hesitant and insecure person regarding her sexuality to fully embracing her identity and finding those who love her for her at The Telegraph Club was amazing. There were so many other things about this story that I absolutely loved (e.g. Lily's determination to continue an education in STEM, which was unheard of for women at the time, the racism and hardships that Chinese Americans faced during this time period thanks to McCarthyism, and the vastness of the queer community during a time period when it "just didn't happen"). Thank you to Penguin Teen for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    TW: period typical racism, homophobia, sexism *edit* bumping this to 4 stars If you are looking for a way to break into the realm of historical fiction this is a great book to do it with. "Last Nigh at the Telegraph Club" is the story of two girls falling in love in 1950's San Francisco during the red scare. Chinese-American teenager Lily Hu is our main character and she is captivated by the Telegraph Club which is a lesbian bar she sees an ad for and thus begins her journey of self discovery. She TW: period typical racism, homophobia, sexism *edit* bumping this to 4 stars If you are looking for a way to break into the realm of historical fiction this is a great book to do it with. "Last Nigh at the Telegraph Club" is the story of two girls falling in love in 1950's San Francisco during the red scare. Chinese-American teenager Lily Hu is our main character and she is captivated by the Telegraph Club which is a lesbian bar she sees an ad for and thus begins her journey of self discovery. She is fascinated with the feelings she has for the club as well as their main act, Tommy Andrews, a male impersonator. She befriends a girl from her school, Kath, who has been to the club and they begin to go together and lose themselves amid Communist anxiety and harsh prejudice against homosexuals. This story is about Lily finding herself both in terms of her sexuality and who she wants to be. We see her grow and learn about her new feelings as a relationship between Lily and Kath develops and Lily owns her sexuality. I read a lot of historical romance but most of it is based in the regency era and follows straight white love stories so I was really looking forward to breaking out of my comfort zone. This book was a great way to start reading about a different historical era while still focusing heavily on romance which I loved. I have to admit that I think this is the first story I've read that focuses on a WLW relationship and I am here for it. Lily and Kath made my heart ache as their connection felt so pure and their fondness for one another was so human (if that makes sense). I felt like I was right there with them experiencing their journey. Lo's writing drew me in and I could always visualize exactly where she wanted the reader to be whether it was bustling Chinatown or the Telegraph Club filled with warmth and new experiences. The classroom scene with Kath and Lily was probably the highlight of this book and I literally can't describe the feelings it gave me. Watching Lily figure out her sexuality and discover herself was so poignant and the way that Lo wrote everything was so nuanced. I sped through the last chunk of the book anxious and greedy for more as there were so many questions I had that needed an answer. However, while there were many positives to this book I also had a few problems that really hindered my reading. For instance, one of the main conflict points is that this story takes place during the red scare with the threat of deportation for Communism running rampant. But, there really is no conflict or big event regarding the threat of Communism. It felt like just a backdrop and I wish the author would have done more to use it as a plot device. There were a few mentions of it affecting Lily's family but it's really never touched upon again in a major way. In addition, there is a scene where Lily unknowingly goes to a youth Communist group picnic that some of her friends are a part of. However, the picnic is only mentioned once or twice and then forgotten about and those characters are pushed to the side. Even towards the end when there is a seemingly important discovery that I thought would be talked about more it is quickly covered during an argument and then boom done. There are also a lot of chapters that follow Lily and her childhood best friend Shirley as they navigate their bumpy friendship. This in itself isn't a bad thing as I think it added to the story and helped readers understand Lily and her relationships better. The problem is there were so many unnecessary (in my opinion) scenes with them including random picnics, dress shopping, and more preparation for Miss Chinatown. While all of this is happening there is a huge part of the climax that is yet to be answered and we as readers have to suffer through these chapters while still hoping our questions are answered. Unfortunately, I really feel like my questions were never answered. There is a big conflict scene towards the end that is very important and emotional but the actual ending left me unsatisfied. I was disappointed and I felt like the epilogue came way too quickly. What happened? Time passes and we never really get answers which left a lackluster ending for me. Furthermore, there are a few chapters that include POV switches to Lily's aunt, mom, and dad that I felt pretty unnecessary. If anythingLily's aunts chapters made some kind of sense for the plot but the mom and dad just felt out of place. So while I spoke of quite a few negatives above my overall enjoyment of this book kind of outweighed them. This love story will stick with me and I encourage others to read it. I'm giving it 3.5/5 stars, it was beautiful book filled with love and heartache and It exposed me to a different time with different culture i received a free ARC from Penguin Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Penguin Teen for the chance to read this wonderful book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    love love loved this even if it made me ache because i miss being at small bars filled with lesbians and small apartment parties and now i want to go to san francisco again

  20. 4 out of 5

    kaela

    as an 18 year old who lives in the bay area who is also chinese-american, i obviously saw a lot of myself in this book. you can just tell how much research and love was spent on this. i saw my asian american identity in the way the author depicted the lunar new year, the complexities and community within chinatown. the way san francisco was described was with such fine detail, it was kinda like i was witnessing a whole new SF despite living here my entire life. but even if i wasn’t those things as an 18 year old who lives in the bay area who is also chinese-american, i obviously saw a lot of myself in this book. you can just tell how much research and love was spent on this. i saw my asian american identity in the way the author depicted the lunar new year, the complexities and community within chinatown. the way san francisco was described was with such fine detail, it was kinda like i was witnessing a whole new SF despite living here my entire life. but even if i wasn’t those things at all, this book is utterly phenomenal. still wanna touch on the setting tho. usually, people who write about san francisco just write about it as a whole. not this one. this story made san francisco the world. from coit tower, to ocean beach, the presidio... i’ve never seen san francisco written so detailed before! maybe it’s my SF pride and maybe i am biased, but it’s just SO good. but if the world building isn’t enough, the story between kath and lily was just so, so beautiful. i was just living vicariously through them! the romance and slow burn between them was painful, exciting, and beautiful to watch. simply because their love wasn’t tolerated at that time, they were punished because of it and that’s what makes their romance so gripping. also, as lily comes to terms with her identity, you can see herself become squashed by the societal norms at the time and it just :(( ugh okay so if the world building and romance isn’t enough, the writing is... wow. breathtaking. i saw everything SO vividly through the writing. okay, here’s an example: “She felt as if she were sinking back into her seat, falling into the gravity well of the earth. And then, as the stars above her moved, depicting their nightly journey across the cosmos, she felt as if she were moving with them. Her stomach lurched and she had to close her eyes for a moment against the motion, but the allure of the vision was too strong, and she opened them again and marveled at the sensation that gripped her. There was no up; there was no down. She was floating, suspended between earth and sky.” JUST!! WOW!!! it can get a little dense and wordy sometimes & i know that it’s not everyones cup of tea but i enjoyed it! lastly, books trying to jam pack too many storylines just end up feeling rushed and incomplete. like this one deals with the cold war, lgbtq+ rep in the 1950s, asian american identity, and a whole romance. however, i found the differing POV’s, intensive research the author did, and literal timelines helpful in really gathering a sense of what the cold war was like for asian americans/lgbtq+ community. i’m so glad i found malinda lo. i truly believe she’s an up and coming author with a really bright future ahead of her, after a release as amazing as this. and i’m so excited to watch her grow. i really can’t wait for her other works to come out! this story is SEVERELY underrated as it is and it always fills me with pride seeing asian authors pioneer in storytelling like this. please please PLEASE read this. might need to place this #1 in my favorite books ive read in 2021!

  21. 5 out of 5

    lina

    „[...] lily stumbled over the word homosexual. why did it have to sound so obscene, lily thought, the x crushed wetly in the back of her mouth.“ i apologise for choosing such a depressing quote, but upon immediately rereading some of my favourite passages after finishing, there simply were too many options to choose from and i can‘t be bothered to make a more fitting decision; i’m pretty sure this is now my favourite lesbian coming-of-age novel. lily‘s story is obviously vastly different from my „[...] lily stumbled over the word homosexual. why did it have to sound so obscene, lily thought, the x crushed wetly in the back of her mouth.“ i apologise for choosing such a depressing quote, but upon immediately rereading some of my favourite passages after finishing, there simply were too many options to choose from and i can‘t be bothered to make a more fitting decision; i’m pretty sure this is now my favourite lesbian coming-of-age novel. lily‘s story is obviously vastly different from my own experience, with it being set in 1950's san francisco, her family‘s fear of deportation constantly looming over her family and red-scare paranoia threatening her chinese american community - but malinda lo managed to perfectly put into words the most alienating, indescribable, almost weird aspects of first coming to terms with being a lesbian. feeling like everyone can see right through you and the shame that comes with it; knowing deep down that your attraction to women is vastly different from that of your local misogynistic straight man, but being unable to articulate why and how; feeling predatory for even the most tender emotions just because of who they‘re directed at. despite how tragic i‘m making this novel sound, it is bursting with hope and affirmation. the setting of chinatown in the fifties and especially the lesbian bar lily is taken to by her friend (yes, the infamous telegraph club) felt incredibly vibrant and authentic, and good god, i wish tommy andrews was real because i’d kill to see her perform live. naturally, there is a love story in here, and it is just as beautiful as it is heartbreaking at times, but at its core, last night at the telegraph club is about lily and lily’s journey alone - her love interest obviously vastly influences her life from the second they first interact and especially after their first visit to the telegraph club, but the romance gets to share the spotlight with the stunning exploration of lily‘s complicated relationships with each of her family members, interspersed with short flashbacks into their personal history, relationships, and experiences with immigration. looking back, there were a few plot points that were left unresolved or underdeveloped and i understand how some readers could take issue with the aprupt ending, but it honestly just didn‘t bother me enough to impact my overall opinion. i am nothing if not inconsistent when it comes to my how nit-picky i am. i'm aware this review was all over the place, but all i really wanted to get across is that i desperately hope this novel gets the recognition i believe it deserves. i certainly will be screaming my love for it from the rooftops, and i‘m sure i will come back to it for a reread or two fairly soon. <3

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kelsea

    This was such a lovely YA historical fiction read! When it comes to themes of identity, it takes on quite a lot -- our main character is a wonderful exploration of what it meant to be Chinese American and queer in the 1950s. I think Malinda Lo took on a difficult task and did a wonderful job of it. While the setting is fun and lively, the plot itself is fairly straightforward. The power of the story largely lies in the MC's introspection and the hidden world (of the Telegraph Club) that slowly u This was such a lovely YA historical fiction read! When it comes to themes of identity, it takes on quite a lot -- our main character is a wonderful exploration of what it meant to be Chinese American and queer in the 1950s. I think Malinda Lo took on a difficult task and did a wonderful job of it. While the setting is fun and lively, the plot itself is fairly straightforward. The power of the story largely lies in the MC's introspection and the hidden world (of the Telegraph Club) that slowly unfurls to her. I think this book will appeal to many, including fans of Kristin Lambert's The Boy in the Red Dress! Thank you Penguin Teen for providing an e-galley through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sana

    *me coming to Goodreads to add a sapphic Chinese historical fiction to my TBR and seeing I already did so wayyyy back in 2017* 🥰🥰 Anyway, I stan this cover

  24. 5 out of 5

    ella &#x1f940;

    "It wasn’t like chocolate, Lily thought. It was like finding water after a drought. She couldn’t drink enough, and her thirst made her ashamed, and the shame made her angry." Lily's exploration and discovery of her sexuality was such a powerful experience to follow, which resonated with me and I'm sure many others. Lily's shame and confusion at realising who she is, a common experience of most queer people, is amplified by the restrictions of the time and her family's views and their shaky st "It wasn’t like chocolate, Lily thought. It was like finding water after a drought. She couldn’t drink enough, and her thirst made her ashamed, and the shame made her angry." Lily's exploration and discovery of her sexuality was such a powerful experience to follow, which resonated with me and I'm sure many others. Lily's shame and confusion at realising who she is, a common experience of most queer people, is amplified by the restrictions of the time and her family's views and their shaky status with the government. Her journey to acceptance isn't easy, and the ending isn't unrealistic for the time, but there was something so heart-warming about reading Lily's story. We didn't get to see much of Katherine's character, but the romance felt natural and developed perfectly. I can guarantee that there will be times when you want to shout at the characters to finally get together, but who doesn't love a sapphic slow-burn? There was so much packed into this book that sometimes it suffered from not exploring one aspect in as much depth as it could have. Some characters and sub plots didn't feel fully resolved by the end and left me wanting much more. The impact of Communism and events in China is present throughout the book, but the threat seemed distant and the mini plot line didn't end up going anywhere. However, the glimpses we did see were fascinating, and the treatment of Chinese Americans and lesbian culture were the strongest themes. This story gave a fresh insight into Asian Americans during and after World War II that I hadn't considered much before, with links to McCarthyism and the Chinese Civil War. The lesbian community and nightlife in the 1950s was another hidden part of history that I knew nothing about. It was so interesting to explore queer history in a new light, and validating to just know that queer people have always existed in history. cw: homophobia, racism, misogyny

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    Last Night at the Telegraph Club By Malinda Lo Chinese-American Queer historical fiction San Francisco Chinatown Set in the 1950's Red Scare An incredible and beautifully well-written and well-researched novel set in San Francisco during the red scare. It is a story about immigration, culture, identity and one of blemished part of our American history. I thought that the relationship and the characters were so well written, my heart was about to burst. This is a true gem of a book and as a historica Last Night at the Telegraph Club By Malinda Lo Chinese-American Queer historical fiction San Francisco Chinatown Set in the 1950's Red Scare An incredible and beautifully well-written and well-researched novel set in San Francisco during the red scare. It is a story about immigration, culture, identity and one of blemished part of our American history. I thought that the relationship and the characters were so well written, my heart was about to burst. This is a true gem of a book and as a historical fiction lover and lover of YA books, this combination with the queer love story was a winner. I cannot recommend this enough.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trinh

    This historical fiction book is so amazing and well-detailed. I love that we get to see the romance between Lily and Kath develop throughout the novel. But most importantly, I appreciate seeing Lily's character development. Although I feel bad for her since she struggles with racism and homophobia, I'm glad she's grown a lot from the beginning to end. Thank you to Penguin Teen for providing me with an ARC on NetGalley!! This historical fiction book is so amazing and well-detailed. I love that we get to see the romance between Lily and Kath develop throughout the novel. But most importantly, I appreciate seeing Lily's character development. Although I feel bad for her since she struggles with racism and homophobia, I'm glad she's grown a lot from the beginning to end. Thank you to Penguin Teen for providing me with an ARC on NetGalley!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laney

    My favorite WLW novel to this day. 100% recommend. The only reason why it's 4 stars instead of 5 is because I wanted MORE of Lily and Kath; I don't want to say their relationship is underdeveloped but I wish they had more page time. My favorite WLW novel to this day. 100% recommend. The only reason why it's 4 stars instead of 5 is because I wanted MORE of Lily and Kath; I don't want to say their relationship is underdeveloped but I wish they had more page time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    A phenomenal look at being a queer, teen, Chinese American woman in SF that is realistically portrayed for the time period but focused on joy and finding yourself. Simply beautiful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    4.5 stars. Wow. This book was incredibly well done. It was immediately apparent that Malinda Lo really did her research. This book follows Lily Hu's story, a 17 year old girl growing up in 1950s Chinatown, and her first venture into San Francisco's lesbian scene with her first love Kath. This was a very touching story. Malinda Lo weaves the two themes of the book, growing up lesbian and growing up Chinese during a time when neither were well-accepted in America, effortlessly and masterfully. I th 4.5 stars. Wow. This book was incredibly well done. It was immediately apparent that Malinda Lo really did her research. This book follows Lily Hu's story, a 17 year old girl growing up in 1950s Chinatown, and her first venture into San Francisco's lesbian scene with her first love Kath. This was a very touching story. Malinda Lo weaves the two themes of the book, growing up lesbian and growing up Chinese during a time when neither were well-accepted in America, effortlessly and masterfully. I thought they they were incredibly well-balanced throughout the book. The characters, along with Lily's experience of feeling alone and unsure while discovering her sexuality, felt very realistic and relatable. I absolutely adored this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    K

    4.5! Very romantic and sweet and I loved the setting. I think it’s a really important book. I wish the red scare storyline felt more resolved.

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