"Nelson and Christie deliver an engrossing blend of history, art, and storytelling in this deeply moving tribute to a singular individual." Publishers Weekly

"This book will capture readers' interest from the first pages and they will find themselves still thinking about it weeks later." —Voice of Youth Advocates

"A stirring and thought-provoking account of an unsung figure in 20th-century American history." —Kirkus

No Crystal Stair

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Carolrhoda Books / 2012

A documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller

"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.

"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."

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  • 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction


  • A 2013 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book