In the early 1900s, Jo Kuan–a teenager of Chinese descent–lives on the fringes of Atlanta. She and her adopted father Old Jin cobble together a life by squatting in the basement of a newspaper and working jobs that barely sustain them.
When the newspaper is in danger of folding, Jo comes up with a plan to save it–and her home. She begins anonymously writing as “Miss Sweetie,” an advice columnist who gets people talking with her progressive ideas about race, gender roles, and suffrage.
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By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, Dear Miss Sweetie. When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.