No Crystal Stair

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No Crystal Stair is a novel, published in 1997, by Canadian author Mairuth Sarsfield.

No Crystal Stair was one of the selected novels in the 2005 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by Olympic fencer Sherraine MacKay. The title is a reference to the line "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair" Langston Hughes's poem "Mother to Son."

Plot introduction[edit]

No Crystal Stair is a coming-of-age story set in the Little Burgundy district of Montreal during the 1940s.

Plot summary[edit]

Widow Marion Willow works at two jobs to raise her three daughters properly. Fighting racism and sexism, Marion schools her girls in manners, English poetry and the need for an education; her elegant neighbour and rival (both women are in love with railway porter Edmund Thompson) teaches the children the ways of the street and their black cultural heritage.

Major themes[edit]

Two themes in the novel run through No Crystal Stair: passing as white and surviving as black. Sarsfield recounts a story about the desire to survive, all the while depicting the cosmopolitan Montreal of the 1940s, a city inhabited by jazz musicians, socialites, artists and gangsters.

See also[edit]

  • No Crystal Stair by Eva Rutland MIRA Publishing, 2000

No Crystal Stair, by Eva Rutland