No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller


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"You can't walk straight on a crooked line. You do you'll break your leg. How can you walk straight in a crooked system?"

Lewis Michaux was born to do things his own way. When a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because "Negroes don't read," Lewis took five books and one hundred dollars and built a bookstore. It soon became the intellectual center of Harlem, a refuge for everyone from Muhammad Ali to Malcolm X.

In No Crystal Stair, Coretta Scott King Award–winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson combines meticulous research with a storyteller's flair to document the life and times of her great-uncle Lewis Michaux, an extraordinary literacy pioneer of the Civil Rights era.

"My life was no crystal stair, far from it. But I'm taking my leave with some pride. It tickles me to know that those folks who said I could never sell books to black people are eating crow. I'd say my seeds grew pretty damn well. And not just the book business. It's the more important business of moving our people forward that has real meaning."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541514911
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 384,898
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of The Book Itch, as well as three Coretta Scott King Award-winning books: No Crystal Stair, Bad News for Outlaws, and Almost to Freedom. She is a former youth services librarian in New Mexico. Visit her online

R. Gregory Christie's illustrations have earned him many awards, including a Caldecott Honor, many Coretta Scott King Honors, and multiple spots on the New York Times' annual Best Illustrated Children's Books lists. He lives in Georgia.

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No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
The author is the great-niece of Lewis Michaux, legendary bookseller of Harlem; she tells the story using written and audio interviews with Michaux, family mementos, and interviews with people who knew the man. Because not all information could be verified or learned, she added her own suppositions to the story. The final product is then a work of fiction which she fully acknowledges. Michaux started with five books and a desire to educate his Harlem neighbors using books "by and about black people." Civil rights leaders visited the National Memorial African Bookstore and Michaux became a person of interest by the FBI as a potential agitator. The bookstore flourished. Black and white photos and illustrations complement the story. 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner. The author won the Coretta Scott King award in 2010 for "Bad News for Outlaws;" this book might win her another such award.
EdGoldberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're like me, you had no idea who Lewis Michaux was and that is sad because he was a driving force for educating Blacks in Harlem. Born to a small business owner in Newport News, VA in the late 1800s, he was floudering. He knew that he wanted to get ahead but had no real direction.He was outspoken about how Blacks would get nowhere unless they knew their heritage. He was entranced by Marcus Garvey's beliefs about Blacks going to Africa to learn their culture. After years of this and that, he decided to open a bookstore in Harlem dedicated to Black authors and Black heritage. This was at a time when people thought Blacks didn't read, so he had a hard time getting financing. He ultimately started his bookstore and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore, after his evangelical brother's unsuccessful campaign to entice Blacks to move to Virginia and learn farming. It was located on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue and, over the years, it became a destination for Black activists such as Malcolm X.No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller was a labor of love and it is evident throughout the work. Michaux's great-niece, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (a Coretta Scott King award winner) is the author of this marvelous work, enhanced by the artwork of R. Gregory Christie. She combed archives, conducted interviews, sifted through library collections to try to obtain information about Michaux's life.Each chapter is broken down into snippets narrated by various people including Lewis, his brother Lightfoot, other relatives, customers and friends. It provides wonderful insight to both Lewis and the times in which he lived. The writing is descriptive. The story is uplifting. Lewis was true to himself in the life that he lived...he walked the walk and talked the talk. The accolades of this book are well deserved. So, sit down, enjoy this book and learn something in the process.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic!!!!!!!