Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Underdog

The Winner2 The Big Kahuna Match: Between The Fault in Our Stars, No Crystal Stair, and Code Name Verity

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s novel No Crystal Stair  is the last book standing in SLJ’s annual Battle of the Books. I could not be prouder—especially given the stunning quality of the finalists* and indeed of the whole bracket.

NCS (because it was an all-acronym finals this year) seems to have been something of a surprise winner, if the comments are to be believed, and I think there’s a certain poetry to that fact. After all, Lewis Michaux was a man who, when applying for a loan to open a bookstore in Harlem, was told to sell fried chicken instead. “Negroes don’t read,” the banker said. No one would bet on Lewis.

A couple decades later, after selling precisely zero fried chickens and an untold number of books** to countless Negroes, things had changed for Lewis. I thought of this passage when I read Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Big Kahuna post on Monday morning:

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Yes indeed, some respect for The House of Common Sense and Proper Propaganda. And we’re all very grateful for it.

Lewis Michaux’s National Memorial African Bookstore, 125th St. and Seventh Avenue, Harlem (1964).
“The House of Common Sense, the Home of Proper Propaganda.”

 

* You know who’s classy as hell? Elizabeth Wein. Anyone who heard her Boston Globe Horn Book honor speech can attest to that. And now anyone who reads the comments on the Big Kahuna post will too:
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** Literally untold, as in he wouldn’t tell anyone:

Lewis starts at around 1:00.