In Print : Baring it all
"Let's Get It On," by Jill Nelson. Amistad, 2009, 288 pages, $24.99.
This no-holds-barred smart sexy romp is a voyeuristic embrace into a freewheeling sisterhood of black women who celebrate, cavort, and conduct their carnal business with high style, raucous exuberance, and ferocious savvy.
Set in Oak Bluffs, author Jill Nelson - a second-generation seasonal resident of one of the homes with a wrap-around view of The Inkwell and Nantucket Sound - invests her latest novel, "Let's Get It On," with a been there, done that, authentic Vineyard voice: Circuit Avenue in summer is referred to as "Circus" Avenue, and as one character explains, "It's Oak, not Oaks, Bluffs, no s. Adding that s is a sure sign of a newcomer..."
The summer scene is described as a game of "Negro Geography," consisting of "...meeting, greeting, and connecting with people based on the understanding that if there are six degrees of separation between white folks, there are no more than two or three between the elite of color." Wanda, one of the central characters, reflects, "I've learned that having money and being on this beautiful island doesn't eliminate tribes, it just upgrades them."
Ms. Nelson revels in the rhythms, sass, and nuances of the Island's black summer society scene; the Harvard intellectuals, politicians, authors, lawyers, and most especially, the bejeweled and decked-out doyennes who call the shots as they party on State Beach, golf and lunch at Farm Neck, and wait at Post Office Square to be beeped that their tables are ready at Linda Jeans. As the characters gather, it is likely many Islanders will be laughing as they recognize composites of some Island regulars among them.
But all that is landscape. The rather outrageous plot, a sequel to Ms. Nelson's first novel, "Sexual Healing" (Agate 2003), has friends and business partners Wanda, Lydia, and Acey, along with Odell, opening a franchise of A Sister's Spa ("Women's pleasure on women's terms"), their successful full-service Reno spa and male brothel. This time their new Floating Spa venture will be housed on "Lady Lay," a luxury yacht formerly belonging to Ken Lay, anchored just off the Vineyard: manicures, massages, and multi-orgasmic experiences.
Lydia's godmother, Ma Nicol, is a matriarch of the Island's black summer society, so the ladies have "some black Bourgeois leverage." Wanda explains, "You know a girl from the Harriet Tubman Houses in South Bronx can't roll up to Martha's Vineyard and expect doors to swing open, even with a bagful of cash."