A review by kayladaila
The Downstairs Girl, by Stacey Lee

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


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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