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Finding Martha's Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Islandby Jill Nelson
Synopses & Reviews
In this elegant book of photographs, personal narrative, memories, and fascinating historical detail, bestselling author Jill Nelson conveys the special magic of Marthas Vineyard and the African Americans who have summered or lived there for generations.
Jill Nelson has been a summer and occasional year-round resident of Oak Bluffs on Marthas Vineyard for nearly fifty years. It was where she learned to swim and ride a bike, first kissed a boy, became a writer, and, during twenty-eight summers, raised her own daughter. In Finding Marthas Vineyard, Nelson offers a lively, intimate portrait of a place that has provided respite and rejuvenation, community and contemplation for generations of African Americans.
Part memoir, part history, Finding Marthas Vineyard describes the various groups that settled on the Vineyard and in Oak Bluffs; slaves and their descendants; devout Methodists and Baptists; African Americans “in service” who accompanied their white employers to the island and over the years established a haven and a community; the black middle-class families who came each summer to escape the heat, hostility, and racial tension of their hometowns; and generations of African American professionalsdoctors, presidential advisors, writers, academics and artistswho visit or live on the Vineyard today. Nelson interviews the Cottagers, the proud owners of Oak Bluffs famous Gingerbread cottages; members of the Polar Bear Club, a die-hard group that swims together every summer morning at 7:30 A.M.; and such famous residents as Vernon Jordan, Bebe Moore Campbell, and Stephen Carter.
Finding Marthas Vineyard is about the power of place in our lives. A rich treasury of reminiscences, excerpts from news articles and documents from the Marthas Vineyard Historical Society, recipes, and glorious photographs, it brings the sights, sounds, celebrations, and social importance of the island community brilliantly to life.
"Nelson, author of a fierce, candid memoir (Volunteer Slavery) and a steamy, funny novel (Sexual Healing), offers an intimate look at Martha's Vineyard, where generations of African-Americans have lived, worked and played, year-round or for a summer. She provides a brief history of the African-American presence on the island, which dates back to the 1700s, and reflects on her own nearly five-decade love affair with the place. Oak Bluffs and other Vineyard resort communities, she says, became havens for African-Americans who felt 'insulated from many of the racial assumptions and expectations... that at the least intruded upon and at the worst defined many of our lives off-island.' Nelson lets island residents provide an oral history: Doris Pope Jackson recalls how, in 1903, her grandfather bought a summer house that soon turned into a thriving inn; Vernon Jordan reflects that for many years, 'the Vineyard was the only [vacation] spot for successful black people.' Others weighing in on what the Vineyard means to them include Yale law professor Stephen Carter (The Emperor of Ocean Park) and novelist Bebe Moore Campbell. Personal and celebratory, Nelson's book is a tribute to a picturesque little island and a reminder of the importance of 'a community of similar souls.' Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this elegant book of photographs, personal narrative, and historical detail, bestselling author Nelson conveys the special magic of Martha's Vineyard and the African Americans who have summered or lived there for generations.
About the Author
Jill Nelson is the author of the bestselling Volunteer Slavery, the novel Sexual Healing, Straight, No Chaser, an acclaimed collection of essays, and is the editor of the anthology Police Brutality. She lives in New York City and Marthas Vineyard, Massachusetts. Visit JillNelson.com or contact her at Findingmv@aol.com.
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