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The Downstairs Girl

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,062 ratings  ·  735 reviews
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 Sweetie." When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society's ills, but she's ...more
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Putnam
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  3,062 ratings  ·  735 reviews

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Chaima ✨ شيماء
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
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Lea ♞ That_Bookdragon
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, favorites

"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 of
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
What a delight.
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

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
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. Being
Dec 02, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: tbr-2019-release
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.
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
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.)
Vicky Who Reads
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, as expected and as always.
♠ TABI ♠
Mar 07, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: netgalley
hello lovely cover I want to touch you
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
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!
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cried at the end. Such a lovely book!

*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,
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
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.
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
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
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Downstairs Girl hits the right spot. Stacey Lee's books always make me wonder what I would have done if I was in the protagonist's place and The Downstairs Girl is no exception. Jo is a heroine you can root for because she is compassionate, always speaks her mind, and has a fierce sense of justice. But at the same time, what I loved about The Downstairs Girl is that it looks
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stacey Lee writes some of my hands-down favorite YA historical fiction and The Downstairs Girl does not disappoint. There were some things that felt a little too convenient or coincidental and I have some questions about the results of the horse race (which I won't share here because spoilers), but Jo was an amazing heroine with whom I really enjoyed spending my time. And, unfortunately for us all, the parallels between society and politics and race relations in 1890 and now are depressingly ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-books, arc
I received a copy of this for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was delightful! It takes place in 1890s Atlanta, in a period where a lot was going on. The Reconstruction had ended, Jim Crow laws were beginning to take place, it was in the middle of the Chinese exclusion act, and suffragettes were fighting to get the vote. Jo, a Chinese American girl, is in the middle of all this even though the story isn’t exclusively about all of those topics. I think that the
julia ♥
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbr-fantasy
This would make a phenomenal period drama. Full of poignant social commentary and powerful messages. Unlike anything I’ve read before!
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 coloured individuals 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*
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
the writing! the history! ugh this book was so so gooooood

I love Jo and her spirit and how hard she fights for what she believes in.

This book says so much about the injustices of the time (many of which still persist to this day)

It was cute and heartwarming and painful to read at times. Important. Wonderful. Makes me want to ride a horse.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was so good! I spent the whole day reading it because I couldn’t put it down. So many feels. So many. I was in tears by the end, but in a good way.
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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 ...more
“You’re growing like a rumor, aren’t you?” 2 likes
“The tricky thing about giving opinions is that sometimes they cost you more than you wanted to spend.” 1 likes
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