Last Night at the Telegraph Club

by Malinda Lo

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Part 4 Summary

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Last Updated on October 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 645

Chapter 25

Lily sneaks out at night again. This time, she meets up with both Kath and Kath’s friend Jean, who is home from college on break. At the Telegraph Club, the bouncer recognizes Jean, and they all go in. Lily tries to buy the drinks this time, but Kath refuses to let her. 

During Tommy’s show, Lily again finds herself uncomfortably excited. The three girls run into some of Jean’s college friends. Once more, there is an extensive conversation that Lily doesn’t know how to contribute to. They gossip about other clubs in the area, and the other girls gently tease Lily about her reaction to Tommy. One of Jean’s friends suggests that Kath get a suit and tells her that she is butch, which Kath clearly finds satisfying.

Chapter 26

On a Saturday, Shirley calls Lily and urgently persuades her to meet her at a park. There, the two have a talk about their families. Shirley asks Lily why her family doesn’t move out of Chinatown, but Lily has no answer. They then go to Sutro’s museum, where they drink hot chocolate and watch groups of ice skaters they dare not join. Bitterly, Shirley complains about always feeling watched in Chinatown and how she would like to move to another city. Eventually, she apologizes to Lily for being a bad friend to her lately and asks for her forgiveness. Lily agrees.

Chapter 27

Inside the museum, the girls encounter a caricature statue of a Japanese woman, as well as some tourists who rudely compare them to it. They run away and go look at the ocean through a viewer. Later, they go to the park and have a picnic. It turns out that Shirley has news: she is going to enter the Miss Chinatown contest, and she wants Lily’s help. The two make a plan for Shirley’s campaign.

Chapter 28

Now, Lily is back among her old group of friends, which means she has less time for Kath. She wonders if Kath will still want to talk to her. In a Christmas assembly, Lily is made uneasy by her attraction to the ballet dancers. Afterwards, she finds Kath, takes her into a nearby supply room, and apologizes for paying less attention to her. But Lily finds it hard to explain how she is feeling, and Kath worries that Lily doesn’t want to spend time with her anymore. Desperate to show how she feels, Lily takes Kath’s hand. Excited, the two agree to go to the Telegraph Club together on December 30th.

Chapter 29

Shirley, Lily, and their other friends meet at Shirley’s house to organize the Miss Chinatown campaign. All the girls make suggestions for what Shirley can say in her speech, and Lily’s idea—that Shirley wants to represent Chinatown well to the rest of America—wins out. At church, Lily watches the Nativity tableau. She remembers playing a shepherd, not a shepherdess, when she was younger and worries about whether it was a sign of her queerness. This year, she notices, all the shepherds are boys. 

Interlude: Grace, Eleven Years Earlier

In Chinatown, Grace walks in a parade with her young children. The parade is for Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, then the first lady of China, visiting the United States on a tour. Chinatown is very excited to welcome her. Though the only sight they get of her is a handkerchief waving in a car, the experience is still thrilling. Later, Grace takes her children to dinner at the restaurant of Shirley’s family. She and Shirley’s mother, Ruby, chat about Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and whether the male American politicians she is to negotiate with will take her seriously. As they talk, Grace realizes that Lily and Shirley are playing by the window, pretending to be the Madame looking out on the parade.

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