The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

I tend to read contemporary fiction because it’s often easier to relate to, but I found this book, set in 1890 in Atlanta, to be quite relevant to the present.

Its themes of racism, identity, family, and a case of the haves vs. the will-never-gets kept me turning page after page. The author, Stacey Lee, made me care deeply for the protagonist, Jo Kuan, and her somewhat secret life as an activist. She proved that we all have something we can use to help others, even when we, too, are the ones in need. This book also showcases the author’s masterful ability to handle conflict. There was a twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming. Yet, it was absolutely believable and authentic for the characters.

Memorable, this book now ranks as one of my favorites.

When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown

This book is my favorite read so far this year.

Set in the South in the 1930s, it is still relatable to me, a Black woman. In fact, it gives unflinching answers to those who wonder what Black Americans often endure in the U.S.

Angela Jackson-Brown’s masterful technique with characterization makes each person mentioned memorable and distinctive.

Its themes of racism, family units, respect for elders, and traditions rooted in belief systems–good and bad–all make this book a provocative page-turner.

I won’t spoil the ending but be prepared for it to haunt you long after you finish this book.

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