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The Downstairs Girl

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  349 ratings  ·  134 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 no ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Piatkus
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4.24  · 
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 ·  349 ratings  ·  134 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
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
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-2019-release
Elise (TheBookishActress)
this is the type of badass journalist girl historical fiction I'm here for
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.
Vicky Who Reads
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, as expected and as always.
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
♠️ TABI ♠️
hello lovely cover I want to touch you
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.
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.)
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
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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 a
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 obv ...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!
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Kiki Cole
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, witty, insightful, and empowering are words that describe The Downstairs Girl. This novel taught me a lot about a unfamiliar concept of America’s history. I never would have known about Asian culture in the Gilded Age if it was not for this book. This is definitely a spunky backlash at those who have depressed minorities like women, African Americans, and Asians and it is also a very relevant piece of literature today. I loved our unapologetic MC, Jo Kuan, as well as other various cha ...more
Mónica Bustamante Wagner
omg, what a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL book! Loved the history, the wise sentences, the world, the insights, the voice. Stacey Lee's books keep getting better and better!!
Oh, and I didn't even see the twists coming. :) A must-read if you like diverse, historical YA!
“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 for
I LOVED this historical fiction YA novel set in Atlanta at the turn of the 19th century. Full review coming when the book releases.
Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]
I always love reading Stacey Lee books. They’re (usually) historicals, but from the perspective of more marginalised members of society; after a steady diet of books featuring white, blonde, wealthy earl’s daughters as the heroine, they’re like a breath of fresh air.

Now, they’re not perfect. In this instance, I feel let down by both the romance and the ending. But on the whole The Downstairs Girl is a YA must-read for August.

It’s 1890 in Atlanta, Georgia, and seventeen-year-old orphan Jo Kuan
Silver Petticoat
Review by Autumn Topping

In this wonderfully crafted historical fiction, Jo Kuan is a Chinese American living in 1890s Atlanta. She gets fired from her hat job just because she’s Chinese and secretly lives below a family of journalists with her adoptive father Old Gin. Soon, Jo works as a Lady’s maid for the temperamental Caroline who tortured her as a young girl. Then, she begins secretly writing under the pseudonym Miss Sweetie for the newspaper family she’s watched from the shadows.

In her col
michelle (magical reads)
4.5 stars

read on my blog

Dear Miss Sweetie,

My sisters and I wonder why must women suffer a few days each month?

Bloated, Crampy, and Spotty

Dear Bloated, Crampy, and Spotty,

Because the alternative is worse, although they do get to vote.

Miss Sweetie

I don’t usually read the historical genre, but Stacey Lee’s historical books are always so good. I kept putting off reading this book because I have to be in the right mood, and I’m so upset at myself for not reading this sooner. The
Wonderfully crafted historical fiction (just as Stacey Lee always seems to deliver), focusing on a time and circumstance I rarely see - particularly in YA historical. There's a lot to learn about the Chinese experience in the South in the late 1800s, facts and insights wrapped up in a story that's full full full of heart.
Nov 17, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, db, hist-fic, aoc
This is one of the most gorgeous covers ever
Jessica Taylor
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If this is half as lovely as Stacey Lee's other books, I'm going to be the happiest reader in the world!
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book further proves that Stacey Lee is a master with historical fiction and diverse narratives. This book is not only thoroughly entertaining but a story the feels culturally relevant for the current time period and the historical one in which it takes place.
I loved this book so much. Review to come!
Abby Johnson
Okay, I love Stacey Lee and I think this might be my favorite of her books. I loved feisty Jo, a girl who's not afraid to express her opinions, even though it got her fired from her job, even when they're not popular. I'm a huge fan of Gilded Age historical fiction and I really loved reading a story about families that have been erased from history. Did you know that after slavery was abolished, the South brought in many Chinese immigrants to fill the labor shortages?

And I loved the exploration
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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