Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Classed as a documentary novel, No Crystal Stair covers the life and work of Lewis Michaux, an intelligent, but headstrong and wilful young man who starts his life with chaos and dreams of claiming an identity of his own. He finds his life’s path through his creation of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem that sells books for black people by black writers. His intention is to educate African Americans about their origins and history, and instil in them a sense of pride and belief in who they are and what they can achieve. He starts with 5 books and ends with over 200,000, many of which are books for children.
The book took years to research and write. It is presented in the first person narrative, drawing on various voices including Lewis’, and many famous people. This perfect approach allows the reader to see more than just a single view of each issue that is addressed.
Lewis’ story begins in 1906. It is set up in 7 sections and covers historical events, and personal milestones in Lewis’ life, up to 1974 when he was forced to relocate the bookshop.
This is a brilliant historical document and reference book that inspires. It reports on the influence Lewis Michaux’s passion for learning and encouraging others to do so, had on many famous black people, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.
Riveting, detailed information on the historical changes that took place within that time frame, are well researched and presented. Every page is full of honesty and truth. I enjoyed this book greatly and will definitely revisit it time and again. It is ideal for the 12-102 year age group.