Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 22 minutes
First Published: 2021
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During the Gilded Age, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan lives in the margins as one of the few Chinese people in Atlanta, Georgia. Forced to accept a job as a lady’s maid, Jo secretly writes a newspaper advice column for Southern women. When Jo uses her anonymity to challenge the Southern view on race and gender, the backlash threatens to expose her and places her in the path of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal.
Stacey Lee’s young adult historical fiction novel is the perfect light read that sprinkles cute teenage romance with a little-known historical setting. Since Jo is neither white nor black, she gives a unique viewpoint to the South as the Reconstruction is ending and the Jim Crow Era is beginning. The Downstairs Girl does a great job hitting on major themes such as racism and sexism but keeps the story light and enjoyable for teens and adults.
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 not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.
About Stacey Lee
Stacey Lee is the author of The Downstairs Girl, Luck of the Titanic, Under a Painted Sky, and Outrun the Moon. She is a fourth-generation Chinese American and a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. Lee currently lives outside San Francisco. Visit the author’s website →