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October 2021: The Downstairs Girl

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

Order the book through your local bookstore, through Source Booksellers (our exclusive partner), online, or check your local library for digital and physical loans.

Contextual Links

We recommend perusing these links to get additional context about the book, the author, and the themes of the book. Spoilers ahead, though!

Discussion Questions

  1. Jo often shrouds herself in shadows, whether it’s literally in the basement of the Bells’ home, or figuratively under the pseudonym of Miss Sweetie. How else do shadows appear throughout The Downstairs Girl? What characters also spend time in the shadows? How do the intersections of race and gender play into their hidden selves?

  2. Jo is criticized for being opinionated at Mrs. English’s millinery, but subscribers love Miss Sweetie’s saucebox comments—think about what distinguishes Jo from Miss Sweetie?

  3. Jo and Noemi witness the statue of a Confederate officer being erected. Use their discussion on p. 114 as a jumping-off point to address the current events around the removal of these statues throughout the South.

  4. Naomi says, “We got to jump in and make the rules . . . Or someone else will make them for us” (p. 115). In what ways do Jo and other characters attempt to make the rules? What role do rules—and their breaking, expanding, and reimagining—play in the story? How about your understanding of marginalization in contemporary society?

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