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The Downstairs Girl, by Stacey Lee

5 reviews

adellabianca's review against another edition

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4.25

I loved this book! The voice of the protagonist Jo was truly endearing, and I loved the twists and turns of the narrative. Also, it's rare to see books about Asian Americans' presence in the South. 

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rebthack's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging emotional funny hopeful informative inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5


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kayladaila's review

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challenging emotional hopeful inspiring mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

The Downstairs Girl tells the story of Jo Kuan, a Chinese American woman struggling to find her place in post-Civil War Georgia. Jo is employed as a servant for a wealthy family while she lives illegally in the basement of a struggling newspaper owner’s house. She decides to write an advice column to help her upstairs neighbor boost newspaper sales and give herself an outlet. 

Stacey Lee seamlessly touches on so many themes over the course of The Downstairs Girl. My favorite was Lee’s handling of intersectional feminism. From Jo’s column to her involvement with the Women’s Rights movement, there is so much to unpack, and sadly, most of it still needs to be unpacked today. 

The Downstairs Girl reminded me of Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It didn’t help that Emily Woo Zeller read the audiobook for both. However, they are both about young Chinese American women dealing with inter-generational conflict and discrimination. I think these books are worth looking at next to each other. 

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tesshersh's review

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funny lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

a little predictable but all in all a fun read :)

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thevietvegan's review

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adventurous emotional funny hopeful inspiring medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

Dangit, I wrote a whole review and then pressed back by accident and lost it. Ok, here are the things I loved about the book:

  • Writing style was so descriptive in ways that are so unlike most literature I typically read. The use of proverbs (no idea if they are traditionally Chinese proverbs or simply Stacey Lee being incredibly wise) were lovely and poetic, and at times, quite funny 
  • The characters are so fully fleshed out and real. Protagonists, villains, even the horses have such distinct personalities that you can imagine what they are doing even after the narrative ends.
  • The historical references are really interesting and explore the racism and impact of being Asian in the 1800s: the slurs, the shared oppression with Black people, and the extra intersection of also being a woman during a time where women were fighting for the vote (and excluding women of colour too)
  • I loved the narrative and the defiance of the main character. I empathized with her iron will but kind heart.
  • I appreciated that all loose ends were tied and the ending seemed improbable but what my heart had hoped for in the end anyway.

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