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June's selection for Bethany Bookers is The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee 

In her previous works of historical fiction, Stacey Lee offered readers a Chinese-American perspective on the Old West and turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Now, with The Downstairs Girl, she turns to the post-Reconstruction era South.

As a Chinese girl living in late 19th century Atlanta, Ga., Jo Kuan constantly struggles to remain invisible. She was born in America but can't be a citizen or even rent a proper apartment, so she lives in a former abolitionist's hidden tunnels, secreted away underneath a newspaper office. Her job is in the back room of a hat shop where everyone wants her beautiful decorative knotwork — but not the comments of the opinionated girl who makes it. And when she loses that job, she must go work for the Payne family as a maid for their snotty daughter, who does everything she can to make Jo miserable.

But one night, Jo overhears her upstairs neighbors bemoaning low subscription numbers and wondering if the newspaper will make it. Afraid of what new neighbors might mean for her living situation, Jo begins writing an advice column, "Dear Miss Sweetie," and submits it anonymously to the paper. Suddenly, all the opinions that she's struggled to keep under wraps come pouring out, and her column burns with radical thoughts on everything from gender equality to segregation. It's just what the newspaper needed, and soon, her writing is the talk of Atlanta. But not all the talk is good, and even as she yearns for acknowledgement, invisibility becomes more important than ever.

Our discussion will be June 25 at 2 PM.