I imagine most people have never heard of this island in the Atlantic off of Massachusetts; if they have, they probably think of the Kennedys or Clintons who've been known to summer there. Nelson writes about a different Vineyard, the seaside resort that has offered daily, ordinary pleasures and comfortable community to (predominantly) middle class African Americans for several generations. That ordinariness itself makes the island vacation community extraordinary. Since as far back as the 1930s, there have been enough professional Black families among the summer residents so that they could enjoy a community in which they and their children were simply people, perhaps one of the greatest luxuries anyone stigmatized in any society can enjoy.
Finding Martha's Vineyard is not analytical; it is Nelson's tribute to a place she loves, where she grew up with families very like her own, where she brought her children to weather their own adolescences, where she returned to mourn her mother's death. It records the reminiscences of the first generation of African Americans to acquire property there, to commit themselves to bringing children there to live the long, lazy, free-spirited summers that are so little the experience of over-scheduled urban children. And it includes an interview with contemporary teenage visitors who still find an unfamiliar freedom from care.
Of course, even as she records the small rituals and daily pleasures of the place, Nelson is too much of a truth-teller not to attempt set the island in its social context.
Finding is a worthy tribute to that "home."