We discuss SFPL’s On the Same Page book selection for May/June, Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club.
A coming of age story unlike any other, Last Night at the Telegraph Club touches readers from tweens to 90-somethings. With the backdrop of the cookie-cutter post-WWII America and rampant McCarthyism outing and savaging suspected Communist sympathizers, this story takes place in San Francisco during 1954. Lily Hu and Kathleen Miller, students at Galileo High School, find themselves confronting treacherous challenges on many levels the least of them being their academic futures. Classmates, friends and romantic partners, Lily and Kathleen’s love story unfolds during a time of conservatism, suppression, heteronormativity, racial exclusion and homophobia. For Lily survival means learning to live in several realities: white American San Francisco, traditional Chinese culture and familial ties to Chinatown and the lesbian enclave of the Telegraph Club all the while discovering and defining her identity for herself. For Kathleen survival means learning to live in disparate realities of white conservative society, racist America and queer society while grappling with her own journey of self-discovery. In 1954, it was dangerous to be your true self let alone find ways of expressing it and living it openly. And, more dangerous of all was crossing racial lines. What to make of two young women, one Chinese American and one white American coming together and finding more than just friendship during such a perilous time? This is a story of unprecedented authenticity as well as emotional and historical candor. It is a testament to the hard-won struggle of what it means to live an authentic life. But, most of all, it is a story that resonates fully of the human experience and desire for love and acceptance.
On The Same Page is a bimonthly city-wide read.
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For more resources, the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center is the gateway to the Library’s broader collections documenting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual history and culture, with a special emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area.