The Downstairs Girl [Book Review]

February 19, 2021

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (author) Image: a teenage Asian girl wearing a fancy hat in an 1890 style

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Asian-American, Prejudice, Racism, Coming of Age

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

The Downstairs Girl is set in 1890s Atlanta where a Chinese-American girl having no voice challenges racial and gender issues. Let go from her job at a milliner’s shop because she was a “saucebox,” seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan now works as a lady’s maid for the cruel and spoiled daughter of a wealthy man. Jo and Old Gin (affectionately thought of as “grandfather”) have always lived secretly in the basement below a newspaper man’s family. Jo loves WORDS and writing and so one day, Jo has the idea to write a column for the newspaper in order to help them build their readership and compete with the other newspaper in town. At night, she writes the column and drops her submissions in their mailbox. Her column, Dear Miss Sweetie, becomes popular for its modern and controversial opinions and the talk of the town. Meanwhile in her day life, Jo struggles to survive her ordeals as a lady’s maid and also plans a dangerous investigation to find her biological father who had abandoned her as a baby.

My Thoughts:

Lots to Love Here!

  • Histfic that is not WW11
  • Life from an Chinese-American perspective
  • Plenty of engaging and page-turning action
  • Young adult/adult crossover
  • A feisty, strong-minded, outspoken, opinionated, spunky, likable, and easy-to-root-for main character
  • Thoughtful themes of found family, coming of age, racism in the South, friendship, expressing opinions, against the odds, determination to make a better life, living in poverty, challenging the status quo
  • Finding your voice in the written word
  • Love for words and writing
  • Author’s writing style (metaphors abound!)

Recommended: I loved The Downstairs Girl and I’m highly recommending this compelling, engaging, and heartfelt story for young adult readers (and adults!), for fans of non WW historical fiction and diverse reads, for those who are looking for stories of determined and inspirational young women, or high school classrooms and/or book clubs, and for readers specifically looking for Asian literature.

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My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (cover) Image: a teenage Asian girl wearing a fancy hat in an 1890s style

The Downstairs Girl Information Here

Meet the Author, Stacey Lee

Author Stacey LeeStacey 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 perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction. Please visit her website at


Is The Downstairs Girl on your TBR or have you read it?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



  1. Oh gosh I love Stacey Lee, I picked up a book originally because its my niece’s name and now I have ALL the books for her when she’s old enough!

    • I believe the war at the time was WWI (as stated in the review). War, slavery, genocide, and essentially any stories involving man’s inhumanity to man are no longer the subjects of fiction that I wish to read.

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