Last Night at the Telegraph Club

by Malinda Lo

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Part 3 Summary

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Last Updated on October 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 717

Chapter 19

Lily prepares to go to the Telegraph Club. Though she has no clothes that feel appropriate, she dresses as best she can. As quietly as possible, she sneaks out of her family’s apartment. When she reaches the corner where she is meant to meet Kath, she feels nervous about being out in the night. However, Kath shows up soon, and the two walk to the Telegraph Club.

Chapter 20

A bouncer in a suit checks the girls’ IDs and, though dubious about their presence there, lets them in. In the club, the girls find a place to stand, and they see Tommy Andrews come to the stage. Tommy sings a number of songs that are from a woman’s perspective but that take on a queer resonance when sung by her in her man’s attire. Made uncomfortable by her own excitement, Lily takes in the audience. She notices she is the only Chinese girl present. 

Chapter 21

After Tommy’s set, Kath notices that Lily seems uncomfortable, and she asks Lily if she wants to leave. However, Lily says that she wants to stay, so Kath goes to the bar and gets them drinks with her fake ID. They meet the women sitting at the table with them, Claire and Paula, and the four chat. But Lily feels she doesn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, especially after they ask whether she speaks English. 

Heading to the bathroom, Lily is accompanied by Claire. In the line, they meet Tommy and her partner Lana, who is feminine. Tommy, too, asks if Lily can speak English, making Lily more uncomfortable. Back at the table, Kath has gotten Lily another beer. Tommy sings a second set, in which she does alter the lyrics. As the night wraps up, the girls begin their walk home. Lily thanks Kath for taking her to the club, and they reluctantly part. Lily’s stealthy entrance to the apartment is successful, and she lies in bed dreaming of the night she has just spent.

Chapter 22

The next day, Lily is sleepy and preoccupied. At school, she and Kath cannot speak of the Telegraph Club, but they exchange looks, excited about their secret. Walking home, though, the two talk about their experience and decide they want to go again. Kath gives Lily a magazine about space.

Chapter 23

At school, there is an air-raid drill so that the students can practice what they would do in the event of an attack. Lying on the floor, Lily notices Shirley and pokes her. The two giggle together. After the drill, Shirley asks Lily to come by Shirley’s parents’ restaurant that evening. There, the girls banter as they have always done, but then Shirley asks Lily which man she has a crush on, which Lily finds hard to answer. She distracts Shirley with more banter instead.

Chapter 24

Helping her family prepare a Thanksgiving meal, Lily is distracted again by thoughts of Kath and the club. Over the phone, she talks to her aunt Judy, who works with rockets. Judy tells her what she can about the future of space travel. Without thinking, Lily tells Judy about Kath giving her the magazine and about the two being in math together. 

Later on, the adults discuss politics, particularly the case of Dr. Hsue-shen Tsien, a physicist who worked for the US military but has now fallen under suspicion of being a communist. In the kitchen, Lily’s mother asks her about Shirley. She has noticed that there has been a split between the two. Lily internally chides herself for being so obvious. She tells her mother that she and Shirley have made up, and her mother is satisfied. 

Interlude: Judy, Twenty-Two Months Earlier

Judy and her husband, Francis, take the fifteen-year-old Lily to a museum, the California Academy of Sciences. They see a planetarium show, and Judy is deeply moved by a sense of wonder. Judy, Francis, and Lily talk about space travel. The adults tell Lily that within her lifetime, there will be manned rockets that go to the moon. Playfully, Francis imitates someone walking on the moon, but Judy corrects him with more graceful movement. Francis kisses her, and Judy reflects on how differently a public kiss is perceived in the United States than in China.

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