Canada Reads·Canadian

No Crystal Stair

Mairuth Sarsfield's novel tells the story of a young widow trying to raise three daughters and earn a decent living on her own.

Mairuth Sarsfield

Marion Willow is a young widow trying to raise three daughters on her own. She's Black, but must pass as white in order to earn a decent living. She has her eye on a handsome railway porter, but she also has a rival for his affections: her neighbour Torrie Delacourt, an American expatriate. Set in Montreal in the mid-1940s, No Crystal Stair is a compelling story of ambition, love and a tightly knit black community that must contend with the subtle racism of Canadian society.

No Crystal Stair was a contender for Canada Reads 2005, when it was defended by Sherraine MacKay.

From the book

Marion Willow had less than thirty-five minutes to get to the Westmount Y on Sherbrooke Sreet. Normally, it was a brisk but invigorating stroll under the tall elms that shade Westmount Boulevard past ostentatious homes built by Scottish robber barons who'd made their fortunes building railroads. But today, Mademoiselle Laroche, Marion's morning employer, had delayed her, equating the situation of the French in Canada with the plight of Blacks in the United States. Only when an old gentleman doffed his bowler, murmuring, "Good afternoon," did her resentment begin to seep away. "Les négres blancs, indeed!" Marion huffed, without breaking her stride.

From No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield ©2004. Published by Canadian Scholars' Press.