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No Crystal Stair (Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books) Hardcover – February 1, 2012
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About the Author
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of many books for young readers, including Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2010, and Almost to Freedom, which won a Coretta Scott King Honor for Colin Bootman's illustrations in 2007. Vaunda is a youth services librarian at the public library in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, where she lives with her husband.
To write No Crystal Stair, Vaunda spent years researching Lewis Michaux's life. She conducted interviews, sifted through library collections, examined family archives, and interviewed those who knew Michaux. In the end though, the man's full story (and even his date of birth) remained elusive. Only the tools of fiction could make a complete portrait.
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Top Customer Reviews
It was indeed a tour de force and the writer used the device of some imaginary characters to fill in the gaps. In the author's notes at the end of the book the writer lists the many obstacles she had to overcome such as missing dates and other documents. Nelson admits that she only visited the Bookstore once when she was 14 but did not realize its significance back then. Years later she was to become an award winning writer and children's librarian herself.
She brings the characters to life and I'm sure if I had met Lewis in person I would have been impressed by him and would want to visit his bookstore and listen to the discussions taking place.
This book is a must read for everyone! And I hope especially young people reach out and get this book. So fun to read, and so fulfilling.
This book is a YA fictionalized biography of Lewis Michaux. By using this format, we get snippets from his life journey, and there are obvious parts of the story that cry out for depth. However, there is enough here to make this an enjoyable read, and to give you a sense of the man. Hopefully the existence of this YA version will lead to a fuller biography of Lewis Michaux.
When Lewis's mother was sent to Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia for "nervous exhaustion," he began to act out even more than before. John Henry was exasperated by his fourteen-year-old son and was appalled when "The judge sentenced [his] boy to twenty lashes for stealing a sack of peanuts." Would the boy ever amount to anything or was he simply destined for a life of crime? His brother Lightfoot had little hope for him when five years later the boy ended up serving time on a chain gang. Blanche had high hopes for Lightfoot, but not that boy.
Lewis would never be like Lightfoot, but when he read copies of "Negro World" with his father, there was an inkling of what he could be, how his life would change. Marcus Garvey wrote that they needed "to take pride in our race, embrace our history." Lewis grew closer to his father and began to embrace Garvey's ideas. When John Henry died, his wayward son took a cool thousand and headed to Philly. Brother Norris was not far behind, nor was Lightfoot's comment that Lewis had "partnered with the Devil." Trouble was indeed on the horizon and it wasn't long before Lewis lost an eye when he was a bit too brazen with a police officer. He claimed that "sometime's it's a good idea to stay quiet," but would he? Could he?
Lightfoot began preaching about God, while Norris became a pool shark and Lewis did some thinking. He was reading about and listening to the likes of Garvey and Frederick Douglass. Now they had something worthwhile to say. Not that Lightfoot's Church of God didn't but Lewis, who would one day be called "The Professor," believed that his people needed to read. They needed to read "books for black people, books about black people here and around the world." It was all about education, all about empowerment. With five books and a hundred dollar loan from the brother who wanted to write him off, Lewis started the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem. Was he a fool or would his dream become reality?
This is an amazing book about Lewis Michaux, a black man who changed the course of history. An unlikely hero, this simple Harlem bookseller achieved his dream and in doing so spurred many others to achieve theirs as they empowered themselves. This book, written by Lewis's great-niece, superbly captured many voices that were instrumental in the African-American Civil Rights movement. I was fascinated by the evolution of the tale as Lewis, the young thief, turns his bookstore into a "major center of black nationalist thought and political activity."
Although, out of necessity Vaunda Micheaux Nelson had to fictionalize the tale, the events and characters are based on fact. R. Gregory Christie's inimitable work graces the pages in this book. Interspersed throughout this book are numerous informative sidebars, photographs, and actual FBI materials. In the back of the book is a character index, remembrances, the Michaux family tree, extensive source notes, a bibliography, and additional recommended book resources to explore. Additional complimentary educational resources can be accessed on the publishers website.
This book courtesy of the publisher.