Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

No Crystal Stair

No Crystal Stair

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

Illustrations by R. Gregory Christie
Carolrhoda Lab, 2012

“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. After a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because “Negros don’t read,”Lewis was determined to prove his doubters wrong. With five books and one hundred dollars, he opened The National Memorial African Bookstore, which 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.”

Awards & Accolades

  • 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction
  • 2013 Coretta Scott King Author Honor
  • Best of Show, 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards
  • 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal Winner – Young Adult Fiction – Historical/Cultural
  • Winner of the 2013 School Library Journal Battle of the Kids Books
  • 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for “Young Adult Book”
  • Starred reviews in The Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal

Available at
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