Vermont Humanities

Vermont Reads 2023: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Vermont Reads

Teenager Lily Hu is fully immersed in the life and culture of San Francisco’s Chinatown, home to Chinese immigrant families like hers. But as she comes of age in the 1950s, her passion for rockets and space exploration is matched by her curiosity about the Telegraph Club, located in a neighboring part of the city her parents have asked her to avoid.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club book coverLily and her new friend, Kathleen, begin to sneak out at night to the club, which hosts performances by Tommy Andrews, a woman who dresses and performs in a traditionally masculine style. Kath and Lily’s interest in each other continues to grow despite the very real danger faced by two girls falling in love in 1954.

At the same time, McCarthy-era fears about Communism, coupled with ongoing anti-Asian hate, shake the stability of the Chinese community and threaten to engulf Lily’s own father.

For the 21st year of the Vermont Reads program, we invite Vermont communities to plan projects centered around Last Night at The Telegraph Club and its themes of self-acceptance, familial and cultural ties, US/China relations, LGBTQ+ and Feminist history, McCarthyism and xenophobia, music of the 1940s and 1950s, and the Asian American experience, among others.

The start date for Vermont Reads 2023: Last night at the Telegraph Club is July 1, 2023. Applications for projects will be accepted through June 30, 2024.

New this year!

We are offering each Vermont Reads host organization one free discussion of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, led by one of our trained facilitators. Visit our Leading a Book Discussion page for more details.

We are also offering each Vermont Reads host organization up to three free Speakers Bureau talks related to the themes in Last Night at the Telegraph Club. Visit our Suggested Activities page for more details.

Painting of two girls embracing under a street lamp

Malinda Lo turns her masterful talent toward an under-covered period of San Francisco history. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is by turns gut-wrenching, utterly compelling, and deeply tender. I loved Lily fiercely, and you will too.

 

Rebecca Kim Wells
Author of "Shatter the Sky"

More about the book

Last Night at the Telegraph Club has won many prestigious awards, including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association, the Stonewall Medal for LGBTQIA+ books, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Author Malinda Lo skillfully weaves actual events—such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s visit to San Francisco in 1943—into this narrative about a teenaged girl finding her true self. Throughout the novel, Lo also relates the stories of Lily’s extended family, including her father’s move from China to San Francisco as a college student and her aunt’s job in the budding aerospace industry.

More about Malinda Lo

Upcoming Events

To support Vermont Reads 2023 we’ll host a series of public events, featuring in-person and online discussions and presentations around the book’s themes, including a planned visit to Vermont by the author at some point during the program year.

Vermont Reads Events

Black and white photo from Vermont Lesbian and Gay Pride march in 1983
Live Event

Stories from the Vermont Queer Archives

Objects such as banners, T-shirts, and buttons in the Vermont Queer Archives at the Pride Center of Vermont reflect currents and changes in the lives of Vermont’s LGBTQ+ community. Meg Tamulonis, volunteer curator of the Archives, discusses how these objects mark various milestones, from Pride events to legal rulings, and considers why some parts of the queer community aren’t well-represented in the Archives.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Exhibit: “Responses: Asian American Voices Resisting the Tides of Racism”

This exhibit curated and produced by Museum of Chinese in America raises a collective voice against the rising tide of anti-Asian hate and violence, and features stories of Asian American resilience, generosity, creativity and agency.

Banner image with Vermont Humanities 50th logo with speaker headshots and a multi colored abstract painting
Live Event

Responses Exhibit Opening Reception

Join Vermont Humanities and the Manchester Community Library for a special gallery opening with the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) exhibit Responses. Responses originated at the MOCA in New York in 2021 and was conceived of as an offering to our communities in a moment of crisis. Chinese and Asian Americans were being blamed as the genesis of the coronavirus and targeted in assaults across the country, harming their bodies as well as their sense of belonging. To help us navigate what was happening, this exhibition explored the lessons of history and raised a collective voice against the rising tide of anti-Asian hate and violence.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club Discussion

Come to the library for an interesting and informative community book discussion of the Vermont Reads book Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club Discussion

Come to the library for an interesting and informative community book discussion of the Vermont Reads book Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Live Event

Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era

What happened in Vermont when the anti-Communist fear known as the “Red Scare” swept the country? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Rick Winston, author of the book “Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era,” explores some forgotten history as we see how a small, rural “rock-ribbed Republican” state with a historically libertarian streak handled the hysteria of the time.

Live Event

Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era

What happened in Vermont when the anti-Communist fear known as the “Red Scare” swept the country? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Rick Winston, author of the book “Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era,” explores some forgotten history as we see how a small, rural “rock-ribbed Republican” state with a historically libertarian streak handled the hysteria of the time.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Author Malinda Lo Visits Vermont: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

To celebrate the Vermont Reads 2023 selection Last Night at the Telegraph Club, join National Book Award Winner Malinda Lo as she discusses writing about queer life in the 1950s and shares how young adult fiction can speak to readers of any age. The conversation will be moderated by National Book Award Finalist M. T. Anderson, the author of Feed.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club Discussion

Come to the library for an interesting and informative community book discussion of the Vermont Reads book Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Vermont Reads Supporters

Vermont Reads 2023 is presented with support from The Trout Lily Foundation and The Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation.

Vermont Humanities*** March 6, 2023