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

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

All are welcome to the John G. McCullough Free Library for a discussion of Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club, the 2023 Vermont Reads selection. Refreshments will be available.

Silhouette pen-and-ink drawing of the historical lesbian couple Charity and Sylvia
Live Event

Comics and Queerness in Vermont and Beyond

Vermont Cartoonist Laureate Tillie Walden presents a look at the intersection of indie comics with queer identity through her many graphic novels—from science fiction to memoir to historical retelling. Explore process and power through visual narrative and learn why comics are relevant to Vermonters and beyond.

Comics in World History and Cultures in text over a collage of comic book illustrations
Live Event

Comics in World History and Cultures

A whirlwind tour of comics around the world and throughout human history! Join award-winning cartoonist and educator Marek Bennett (M.Ed.) as we explore and explain comics from many corners of the globe — with special attention to how people use sequential visual narratives to share ideas, information, and meaning.

Vermont Reads Supporters

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

Vermont Humanities*** April 3, 2024