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The Downstairs Girl

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  11,252 ratings  ·  2,198 reviews
From the founding member of We Need Diverse Books comes a powerful novel about identity, betrayal, and the meaning of family.

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady's maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, "Dear Miss Sw
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Putnam
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Heather DeFauw I did read on the Authors Instagram that while writing the book she realized she “took a wrong turn and ended up writing a side characters story inste…moreI did read on the Authors Instagram that while writing the book she realized she “took a wrong turn and ended up writing a side characters story instead of my main character’s. I didn’t see that coming and i’m not sure I could’ve done anything to avoid that pothole anyway. Sometimes our diversions help us write the book. Weird how that works.” Hope this helps I found it really interesting. She also has the forward in her ARC on there and some other really great stuff.(less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)
This is my second Stacey Lee novel and honestly, I can't wait to read more! She writes characters you feel for and root for, especially as the world and society is against them. I loved the concept for this and thought the execution was so well done. I wasn't expecting the twists and turns the story took so that was a nice surprise. There were discussions of feminism and intersectionality in addition to the racism Jo faces as a Chinese American woman living in the south. Her acting as Miss Sweet ...more
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I like the ideas behind this book and the messages it presents for young girls by showing an Asian woman challenging gender and racial issues. I especially appreciate historical stories that feature Asians in the US and not just Asia. Seeing the protagonist navigate Atlanta as a Chinese woman, as well as portrayals of black solidarity and white feminism, is important - I definitely want to see more of that reflected in stories. Although I typically enjoy historical fiction, however, I wasn't int ...more
chai ♡
Reasons to live:

This historical fiction about a badass girl journalist who, by day, works as maid for the daughter of the wealthiest man in town, and by night, secretly turns over ideas about race and gender for a newspaper advice column
Nilufer Ozmekik
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Five shining, rebellious, upstanding, remarkable, powerful, emotional stars!
I loved this book because it’s about two things that I love the most: Words and changing!

WORDS are the bridges provide connection between people.

WORDS could get your feet off the ground and give you the freedom to explain, express, educate yourself.

WORDS are faster and powerful weapons, once you used them carelessly, it could even take for years to correct your mistake and you could never take them back.

Words are the mo
Anne Bogel
Jun 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club May 2021 selection

I loved this when I first read it on audio, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, and subsequently thoroughly enjoyed my reread in print.

Set in Gilded Age Atlanta, this YA pick features a strong teenage heroine who gets herself into hot water when her anonymous advice column soars in popularity. Chinese American Jo works as a lady’s maid for the grumpy, privileged daughter of a wealthy white family. But in her scarce free time, she writes an anonymous advi
This book was an absolute DELIGHT.

Without a doubt, my favourite part of this story is its eponymous downstairs girl. Jo Kuan is clever and witty, always with a quirky metaphor or clever pun at the ready; she has definitely made it onto my list of favourite protagonists. Her narration made me laugh in moments both lighthearted and bittersweet.

Best of all, The Downstairs Girl never sacrifices complexity for jest, instead deftly navigating the two to craft a story that feels real and intimate and u
Lea | That_Bookdragon
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, owned
5/5 ⭐

"The tricky thing about giving opinions is that sometimes they cost you more than you wanted to spend."

I think it is safe to say that The Downstairs Girl is one of my favorite books of 2019. I first heard about it thanks to Booktube and quickly became obsessed with getting my own copy as soon as it would be released. Well, it did not disappoint and I really recommend that all of you pick it up because it is absolutely amazing. Last year in college I had a class about the History
Vibur (semi-hiatus)
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Elle (ellexamines)
May 13, 2017 marked it as tbz
this is the type of badass journalist girl historical fiction I'm here for ...more
The Downstairs Girl is a historical YA novel, set in Atlanta Georgia, in the late 1800's.

Jo Kuan, a seventeen-year-old Chinese American is living in a basement, more like an underground tunnel built by abolitionist beneath the local newspaper/printer shop. She was a wonderful character, relatable, genuine, smart, with a fascinating backstory. The way she tackled each day, how she overcame new hurdles, and followed her own path was rather uplifting. She had a clear view of how things were, but he
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019

I really liked this!! This was a book I was highly anticipating this year and it did not disappoint! The writing was good, the plot was interesting, there was hardly a romance and the character focused much more on herself and her fam than a boy, and it was very interesting reading about a problem in history I’ve read many times before (segregation and racism in America) but from a different side - our main character is a Chinese American and discusses the differences in treatment betwee

Reading Stacey Lee’s YA novel The Downstairs Girl was truly a delightful experience – one that I honestly was not expecting. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t read much YA because I’m not the target audience for the genre and, as such, I feel like it would be harder for me to appreciate the story and/or the characters. With the last few YA novels I’ve read though, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed them. As an avid reader, one of the things I always hope for in any re
★★★★✰ 4 stars

“Their words comforted me on many a lonely night and made me feel like part of a family. ”

The Downstairs Girl is a compelling and poignant novel that follows seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan, a Chinese American girl living in 1890s Atlanta.

The story explores the way in which Jo, alongside other Chinese Americans, are virtually unseen by their society, a society which sees only in terms of 'black' and 'white'. Jo is constantly reminded by the people around her that she isn't a real Ame
Aug 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
I put off writing this review. This book completely fumbled its amazing premise, crashed and burned. Will I ever find a book with good Chinese rep?

SPOILERS here, but this book was spoiled goods from the beginning anyway.

Some thoughts:

> The protagonist spends most of the book whining about how she doesn't want to marry an ~icky Chinese man~ (despite having never met one her age) because they're all soooo misogynistic and stifling. Then she falls in love with the first mediocre looking (her words)
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle-books
I absolutely adored this!
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The plot is an intricate as one of Jo's complicated silk knots! So much is worked into this story: racial tension, segregation, voting rights, millinery, fashion, journalism, mystery, horse racing . . . I mean, what ISN'T in this book?

And it's all done so well! I love Jo's "saucebox" ways, and Old Gin's gentle wisdom. I love the friendships and frenemies and the extremely tight pacing that kept me turning the pages!
Sol ~ TheBookishKing
This is such a beautiful book (inside and out.)

I forgot how much I truly love Historical Fiction & this just reminded me how fantastic they can be !! There’s so many twists and turns and that whole last half was just crazy!

I definitely recommend this and RTC (soon.)
Kate (GirlReading)
Apparently historical fiction novels following badass teen journalist using their voices to stick it to societal norms and shine a light on injustice is absolutely my kryptonite.

Jo Kuan (with the help of Stacey Lee) proves the power words can hold and the changes that can unfold when you decide to use them for good. She is proof of just how strong women (especially women in marginalised communities) have been, are and always will be.

This was truly, completely and utterly wonderful.
Actual Rating: 4.5✨

Dec 02, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: tbr-2019-release
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
“No. What is this victory?” “It’s knowing your worth no matter what the crows tell you. Victory is waiting for us. We have to be bold enough to snatch it.”

On my blog.

Rep: Chinese mc, black side characters

CWs: racial slurs, violence, mentions of incest

Galley provided by publisher

There is no one I trust to write YA historical fiction quite as much as I trust Stacey Lee to write it. She’s out here giving us diverse, well-written and accurate historical fiction, with characters you will root
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
This was such a fun, engaging read that I completely devoured it - sorry, people I was buddy-reading it with ;-;

Charming and witty, but also illuminative of the situations of PoC in 1890s Atlanta, THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL is a perfect historical standalone that doesn’t become overly heavy or stodgy. Jo is a charming heroine, and I really enjoyed the cast of characters.

My only problem? The ending came upon too quickly and there’s no sequel *bookworm sigh*
laurel [the suspected bibliophile]
By day, Jo is a maid to the spoiled daughter of the wealthiest man in Atlanta. By night, she's agony aunt Miss Sweetie—viciously spearing down racists, misogynists and white feminists with the power of her pen.

This is probably one of my favorite books of 2019 (fuck I read so many great books this year).

This is historical fiction, mystery and feminist/equal rights rallying point all in one, while highlighting the racist and segregationist history of Reconstruction Atlanta.

I never knew that Chines
This was a good enough young adult historical fiction. But it was not really anything beyond being a cute story about a plucky young heroine overcoming somewhat overwhelming odds. Her being Chinese-American almost seemed incidental. While I was reading it, I wasn't fully convinced of the sense of urgency. But it was really the soap opera level of melodrama at the end that took a star from my rating. I liked it enough and it was an easy read but I had expected more from the premise. ...more
Booktastically Amazing
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 4.8

First of all, what the heck
Second of all, what in the flipping heck
I- I cannot feel my face. What was all that. Why didn't I know this existed? WHY AM I JUST HEARING ABOUT THIS-

*deep breath* I want to write a review so badly, but I'm 87% sure I'm going to sound like this throughout it:

"It was marvelous, an absolutely stunning masterpiece that blew my non-existent socks t
Vicky Again
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing, as expected and as always.
It's 1890 Atlanta. Jo, who is unafraid to speak her mind, lives with Old Gin -- a man who took her in after she was "abandoned" by her parents -- under the house of a local publisher who is unaware that they live there. When Jo overhears the folks upstairs talking about how agony aunt columns have led to newspaper sales soaring, she takes it upon herself to suggest a column and does so through a pen name "Miss Sweetie." They're game for it, and she begins to write these regular columns under the ...more
R.F. Gammon
Mar 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Waffling between 3 and 4 stars.

There was SO MUCH to love about this book. We get to see the South between slavery and segregation (I mean, who actually writes about how the South was affected during the Gilded Age? We are LONG overdue for this sort of a book and I loved it), from the POV of a Chinese girl who was a natural-born American citizen! Like...I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Such a unique premise and unique perspective. Please write more books like this, my ladies.

And the whole Miss Sweetie column..
♠ Tabi⁷₈⁷ ♠
Mar 07, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: netgalley
hello lovely cover I want to touch you
I’m a bit conflicted about this one- I think I liked the idea of it much more than the execution. Indeed, the characters besides Jo were not memorable and outside my realm of care. There was a lot of telling rather than showing, and the prose was nothing special. And the ending was so tidy, it rendered all conflict before uninteresting.

(view spoiler)
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Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perk ...more

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