- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (May 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385505663
- ISBN-13: 978-0385505666
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Finding Martha's Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island Hardcover – May 17, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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. (May)
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For generations, the Oak Bluff community on Martha's Vineyard has offered the black middle class a summer escape from the heat and from the racial hostilities of their workaday lives. Nelson herself counts nearly 50 summers of rest and restoration, as she learned to swim, experienced her first kiss, became a writer, and raised her own daughter. Nelson offers a rich historical perspective on Oak Bluffs for African Americans, from the early presence of slaves and servants, to the wealthy, to vacationers and home owners. She recalls the churches, civic organizations, and clubs developed by domestics, professionals, and artists attracted to the island over the generations; their impact on the culture and history of the island; and the shifts in race relations. Nelson begins each chapter with a personal recollection of her family's experiences, then highlights others--island dwellers or longtime visitors--including Spike Lee, Vernon Jordan, Dorothy West, and Stephen Carter. This vibrant collection of memories, articles, recipes, and photographs evokes the social cohesion and significance of this island community. Vanessa Bush
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