Struggling to understand primary sources and how you can track them down for your research papers? Want to read a book that bills itself as a "documentary novel" (and so, fiction on some level) and puts you right in the middle of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement from varying perspectives? Look no further than Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's No Crystal Stair. Here's my Goodreads review:
Fascinating. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson did extensive research on the life of her great uncle, Lewis Michaux, "the Professor" of Harlem. From his childhood in Newport News, Virginia, through his later life in New York, she uses a multitude of voices to give a somewhat fictionalized account of his life. But the amount of digging she did is impressive, and the fictional text brims with primary source material. I've marked this both as biography and historical fiction, because while Nelson takes some liberties, she's making very educated guesses about conversations and relationships based on the wide variety of sources she was able to track down. Readers are introduced to many of the leading black figures of the early and mid 20th century as they come into Lewis's orbit at his famous National Memorial African Bookstore. In the process, they get a great example of world-class researching and story telling. A powerful narrative of an unconventional man who left his mark deeply.