Here it is... yet another queer representation recommendation, except this one's actually a bit more special. There are so, so many books and movies out there that 'represent' the LGBTQIA+ community by having their queer characters die or live wholly unhappy lives, never finding love and/or somehow contracting STDs (see: Philadelphia and The Front Runner). Whilst it is important for all sexualities to be represented, it is really, really important to not generalise and portray them as promiscuous, lonely, depraved, unhealthy, etc. Last Night At the Telegraph Club succeeds in doing none of these things, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the plight of homosexuals in the 1950s (do you ever read a book and you just think, do these authors really think life is this easy?).
Last Night at the Telegraph Club is set in San Francisco during the Cold War. The story follows a Chinese-American girl, Lily Hu, as she faces difficulties concerning not only her sexuality, but also her heritage, her family, and her political environment, at a time when immigrants and the families of immigrants were being targeted and deported for suspected Communism. Malinda Lo skilfully navigates each of these topics, despite their heftiness and difficulty, whilst just as skilfully navigating complex character developments and narrative arcs.
More than anything, this book is just so damn interesting. Authentic, too. Malinda Lo has clearly done her research, and her extent of knowledge is made very apparent through the novel. This then provides a richness of information and makes the whole narrative that much more realistic, also keeping the reader interested. Too many authors are unaware of the power a little research can hold. The few who do, such as Malinda Lo, understand that the more plausible a plot line is made to seem, the more engaged the audience is, as they truly feel connected to the events of the book. As an added bonus, if you're writing about a topic or time period that is slightly obscure, your audience will simply become curious and awed by the new things they're finding out, and may even be prompted to do their own research (I know I was when I was reading this one. Did you know that the first lesbian rights organisation, Daughters of Bilitis, was formed in San Francisco in 1955?).
Anyways, go read this book. It is amazing: sensitive yet unapologetic, informative and wholly captivating. Go read it. Right now.
Trigger Warnings: homophobia, racism, misogyny