No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson illus. by R. Gregory Christie
This is a documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux. Nelson begins this look into Michaux life, in 1906 when he was a young boy growing up in Virgina. The documentary novel is broken up into several sections. Within each the reader learns more about Lewis Michaux and his journey to starting the National Memorial African American bookstore in Harlem, in the 1940's. It was the first Black owned and operated bookstore in the world.
When Michaux decided to open a bookstore the odds were against him. The great depression had recently ended, and there were few publishers catering to Black authors or books about the Black experience. When Michaux decided to take a chance and secure a loan I feel completely in love with No Crystal Stair. There was simply something about Michaux determination, which Nelson does an excellent job of getting across to the reader.
The documentary aspect of this novel can be found in the FBI files on Mixhaux, included throughout, or the photographs of people essential to the civil rights movements, like Malcom X and Black Panthers shopping at the Bookstore. Nelson delves into the close relationship Michaux had with Malcolm X. There are also a lot of other wonderful photographs, including exterior shots of the bookstore.
In an effort to give readers a full picture of the impact Lewis Michaux and his bookstore had on the Black community, Nelson created a few characters, like Snooze, a young teenager Micahux encourages to read for free in the back of the store. All the characters fit seamlessly into the narrative. The book is illustrated by R. Greogory Christie. He uses a light touch which complements the text nicely. No Crystal Stair is a 2012 favorite.
Starred Kirkus Review
Starred Horn Book Review
My interview with Vaunda Nelson at White Readers Meet Black Authors
Reflections of a Bookaholic and Mocha Girls Read are hosting the first annual Black History Month Hop. The 5th -11th is dedicated to the business of Black Books. And I do believe a documentary novel about Lewis Michaux fits the bill.