No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

no crystal stair

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

This title is the life story of famed Harlem bookseller, Lewis Michaux.  The writer of the book, his great niece, imagines his life through a variety of lenses: transcripts and audio recordings of Michaux himself, family archives, articles, books and interviews with family and community members who knew him.  Nelson writes that she did her best to portray Michaux’s life accurately, but had to fill in gaps with “informed speculation” to make a more complete picture.  Black and white photos and illustrations by R. Gregory Christie add authenticity and complexity to the novel.

I have to say that I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would.  ( I’m not usually a fan of informational books.)  Perhaps due to the liberties the writer took with the bookseller’s life, the story flows, feeling more like a novel than an ordinary biography.  Michaux’s strong friendships with notables like Malcolm X and poet Nikki Giovanni enhance the value of what Michaux did: creating a Harlem bookstore full of books exclusively about African-Americans that also became a local intellectual center.  I recommend this books for students wanting to learn about African-American history or simply read a story of a self-made man who followed his own dreams.

Here’s a very cool book trailer that is in line with the feel of the book:


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