Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo | spoiler-free review

Hello! I hope that you’re all having lovely weekends. Tonight I have a review of my very first read of 2022: Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is an amazing book, and I’m very excited to share my thoughts on it with you all today!

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Author: Malinda Lo

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 19th, 2021

Genre: YA historical romance

Representation: Chinese American lesbian main character, lesbian love interest, Chinese American side characters and

Trigger warnings:  homophobia (& slurs), internalized homophobia, racism (& slurs), sexism & misogyny, mention of deportation, mention of miscarriage, parental abuse

Storygraph | Goodreads

*This review is spoiler free.*


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.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a beautiful story about Lily Hu, a seventeen-year-old Chinese American discovering her identity, and learning what it means to be a lesbian in 1954 San Fransisco, and Kathleen Miller, the girl who introduces her to the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar that is a place where both of them, for once, feel just at least a little at home.

This is the first book I’ve read by Malinda Lo, and it absolutely blew me away. The writing is stunning, and brings Lily and Kath, and all of the characters to life in such brilliant ways.

Reading Last Night at the Telegraph Club showed me a whole new perspective on what it was like to be a queer teenager in America in the 1950s. LGBTQ+ representation in historical fiction can also be hard to find, and I loved reading a book set in the past that didn’t just have a queer side character, but actually centered around them, and their identity.

I have always loved historical fiction, but in the last couple years, as I’ve been more aware of the books that I read, I’ve sought out more books with LGBTQ+ representation. Most of the time, those are contemporary books set in the present day, or high fantasy books set in whole different worlds.

It’s so much more difficult to find historical fiction that really focuses on queer people and their experiences in the past. Last Night at the Telegraph Club doesn’t only focus on two lesbian teens, but also the whole community that was forced into hiding in the shadows, and I think that it’s really beautifully done.

Lily Hu, the main character of Last Night at the Telegraph Club is Chinese American, and this part of her identity plays a very large role in her experiences, and is talked about a lot in the books, through multiple underlying subplots.

The book takes place in 1954, and with the Red Scare, the government is on the constant lookout for any signs of people with communist ties. Even her father, with his hard-earned citizenship, is put under suspicion and faces deportation. Learning about how what was happening on the other side of the world in China affected Chinese Americans living in the US was an amazing addition to the depth of the book, and it was clear how much effort Malinda Lo put into making sure that Last Night at the Telegraph Club reflected the many different aspects and challenges of life for the Chinese American community, along with everything else that the book focused on.

Lily Lives with her family in San Fransisco’s Chinatown, and for her whole life has been surrounded by that community. This means that she’s also been witness to how anyone under suspicion of being gay is treated, and how even the thought of it is met with horror and disgust.

Malinda Lo is the National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, which which was named a Best Book of 2021 by NPR, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, and was a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist.

Her debut novel Ash, a Sapphic retelling of Cinderella, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. She has been a three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda’s short fiction and nonfiction has been published by The New York Times, NPR, Autostraddle, The Horn Book, and multiple anthologies. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog. She writes the biweekly newsletter Lo & Behold on writing and culture, and she can be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Her website is

Last Night at the Telegraph Club is an incredibly written, unique, and beautiful romance that tells the story of a young girl navigating the difficulties of being a lesbian and Chinese American in a city that doesn’t always appreciate either.

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Have you read Malinda Lo? Do you like historical fiction? What did you think of this review? Chat with me in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo | spoiler-free review

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