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 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.
THOUGHTS & RATING
“What is the job of a parent, but to teach a child she has worth so that one day she can transform herself into whatever she wants.
The Downstairs Girl is my first Stacey Lee book and the first book I have finished for the #stanasianauthors readathon.
This is a story about Jo Kuan, a Chinese-American girl who struggles to make a living and fit in due to the prejudice of the people during the reconstruction era of the South. She was a ladies maid during the day but at night she becomes the mysterious author “Miss Sweetie” of a newspaper advice column.
I really loved Jo as a character. She was a very strong, responsible, compassionate and opinionated person that you just can’t help to root for especially when everything was against her. I loved how she stands up for herself and didn’t let anyone bring her down just because of her nationality or even her gender. She has so much love for her family and friends and I feel like she is a character and a role model that will stick to you for a long time.
With the focus on racism, loss, social injustice I thought it would be harder to get into cause it tackles such heavy topics but upon starting it I wasn’t overwhelmed with everything that is going on. This was made possible by Jo as a character as well as Stacey Lee’s writing style. You wouldn’t feel depress cause even though a lot is happening you can still see and feel that by the end of the day Jo will be able to get through it cause of her personality and her conviction to what she believes is right.
The Downstairs Girl was a comfort read for me and made me realized a lot of things along the way. This was a story that have been a reality to many other people around the world. If you enjoy reading historical fiction with a badass asian character I highly recommend this.