Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No Crystal Stair

subtitle: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publishing Group | 2012

This 2012 Boston Globe Horn Book fiction winner presents fantastic information about Lewis Michaux, the founder and proprietor of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem from 1930 until it was shut because the building was taken via eminent domain in 1974. People like Nikki Giovanni, Malcolm X, and more visited the store and spent time with "The Professor" as Michaux was called. Life for many "ain't been no crystal stair" as Langston Hughes wrote and Michaux was one.

The bookstore
Nelson, the author, began researching her family history, including the store many years ago. She remembered visiting it as a child, but as more and more people mentioned the impact her great uncle had had on them, the more curious she got. Soon, what she thought was going to be a biography took on a life of its own, and she found herself wanting to include more and needing to use conjecture about some things. And so this "documentary novel" was created.

There are millions of pockets of history in the U.S. that so many have no idea about. I, for one, did not even know this bookstore existed, let alone the very important role it played in Harlem. I am thankful to authors like Vaunda Nelson who bring me these forgotten moments through books.

Get this one for your history class or social studies class. Invite your students to learn something they won't otherwise encounter. Do the same for your children. This book is a fantastic place to start.

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