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The Downstairs Girl

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4.06  ·  Rating details ·  5,846 ratings  ·  1,294 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
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Hardcover, 374 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Putnam
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  5,846 ratings  ·  1,294 reviews


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chai ♡
Reasons to live:

1.
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
Cindy Pham
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: tr-misc
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
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
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Cristina Monica
After reading a book with protagonists that did not inspire any reaction in me but one of absolute indifference, it felt almost magical to read a story with a character that absolutely popped off the page and claimed her rightful place as the heroine of this book. I live for these types of characters with personality, strength, ambition and a desire for change. Jo hasn’t had it easy at all but she’s working hard to support herself, survive and make something of herself. Historical Fiction is a h ...more
Lea ♞ That_Bookdragon
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, favorites
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
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Vibur
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
rtc
Corina
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
...more
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle-books
I absolutely adored this!
Kate
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
4/5stars

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
...more
Elise (TheBookishActress)
this is the type of badass journalist girl historical fiction I'm here for
Anna Luce
★★★★✰ 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 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 American
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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.
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*
Jessica
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.)
...more
Anna
Dec 02, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: tbr-2019-release
*flails* I NEED THIS IMMEDIATELY.
Kactus
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)
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laurel [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
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Vicky Again
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing, as expected and as always.
Meera
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.
♠ Tabi ♠
Mar 07, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: netgalley
hello lovely cover I want to touch you
Lou
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Downstairs Girl, in my opinion, cements Stacey Lee's status at the top of the young-adult historical fiction tree; she can always be relied on to write a truly engrossing, high-quality tale. The year is 1890, and Chinese-American teenager Jo Kuan has just lost her job at a milliner's in Atlanta, Georgia, thereby forcing her to take work as a maid for an affluent family who she has worked for before. Their treatment of her was no less than disgusting, but she has little choice. Infuriated by ...more
Kelly
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..
...more
Sarah Hannah
SO GOOD. Feminist, funny historical fiction about a slice of history and group of people I've never heard about, let alone read a novel about. Really great exploration of colorism and shame and oppression and why thinking about race in terms of black and white leaves a lot of people out. Highly recommend, whether you're into historical fiction or not!
Julie
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cried at the end. Such a lovely book!
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight .

This is such a lovely book! I have loved every Stacey Lee book I have read, and this one is certainly no different. It combines all the best things: family, friendship, fighting for the rights that all people deserve, and yeah, an immensely lovable protagonist, and even a little romance. Sometimes Jo's story will break your heart, and it should. Indeed, her story is all too relevant in
...more
Tinichix (nicole)
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
This was an audio choice for me. The narrator was great and felt very authentic, almost as if she could have been the author herself. This book had elements of secrecy, independence, crime, curiosity, layers of mystery, adversity, prejudices, and even some subtle pieces of humor. Unfortunately it took me sometime to really feel engaged in the story and enjoy it. Probably close to the halfway point. I do actually think this story was probably very well done and had some really neat elements, I ju ...more
Dahlia
Stacey Lee continues to be the absolute queen of diverse historical YA and I will hear nothing otherwise. Completely devoured this one and loved it just as much as the others, which is saying a lot.
Rukky


*Jo Kuan. I loved Jo for her wit, for her outspoken attitude, and because of her love for her friends and family. By day, she is a maid for a cruel and rich society belle, and by night she writes an unconventional column that tackles issues of race and gender equality. Her form of feminism, her way of challenging society’s ideals, was amazing, and I loved how she spoke for all women, and all races, rather than just a certain group of women, like the suffragist group in this story did. Also,
...more
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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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