This is an intimate biography of an important but underappreciated figure in black history.
"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. When a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because ""Negroes don't read,"" Lewis took five books and one hundred dollars and built a bookstore. It 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.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books for children, including Almost to Freedom, which received a 2004 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award, and No Crystal Stair, which received a 2013 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award. In addition to writing books, she has also been a teacher, newspaper reporter, bookseller, and children’s librarian. She lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
R. Gregory Christie is an award-winning illustrator of numerous picture books and is a three-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award for Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth, and The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker and on music CD covers. He lives in New York City.
Michaux’s voice blends with those of the people in his life, providing a full portrait of a remarkable man. Copious illustrations in the form of photographs, copies of appropriate ephemera and Christie’s powerfully emotional free-form line drawings add depth and focus. A stirring and thought-provoking account of an unsung figure in 20th-century American history.
Michaux seems to have known virtually everyone who was a figure in the Harlem Renaissance and, later, the black liberation movement, and, accordingly, Nelson tells his story from multiple points of view. While most of the voices she includes are those of real people familiar with her uncle and his bookstore, some belong to fictional characters who are also the product of research. The resulting work is not only a compelling biography but also a useful addition to the literature of black history and culture. Source notes and an extensive bibliography are appended.