Have you ever heard of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Chances are you learned about these important people when you studied the Civil Rights Movement. But did you ever learn about Harlem bookseller Lewis Michaux? I'd venture to say you have NOT, which means you should definitely check out the new book No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller
Here's what you'll learn about Lewis Michaux:
1. He started the first bookstore in Harlem dedicated to selling books by and about black people. (When he first opened the store, he only had five books, but eventually the store had thousands.)
2. At a time when racism was rampant in the United States, he worked to inspire black people to read about their history, be proud of their heritage, and pursue their dreams.
3. He touched the lives of lots of people, including Malcolm X, Nikki Giovanni, Kwame Nkrumah (president of Ghana), Sugar Ray Robinson, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong and Zora Neale Hurston.
Many of the things you'll learn about Michaux are true, but this book is located in the fiction section of the library. Why? No Crystal Stair
has a unique format. The author, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, wanted to write a non-fiction biography of Lewis Michaux. However, it was impossible to dig up enough evidence to write the complete story of his life. So Nelson decided to make her book a "documentary novel." She combined the facts with speculation, which makes this book a hybrid of non-fiction and fiction.
Already the winner of the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award
for fiction, this book has received lots of praise from critics and so should certainly be considered a Newbery possibility. My only question is whether it is excellently presented for children. I think it may be better suited for young adults. No Crystal Stair
doesn't explain much of the history behind the action, so readers who haven't learned about the history of racial discrimination in the United States may find themselves scratching their heads and having to turn to outside sources to put the pieces together.
Rating: 4 out of 5