Book Review # 37 - Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor


Colson Whitehead

I received Sag Harbor, courtesy of Barnes and Nobles First Look club and once I started reading the book, couldn't put it down.

Back cover: The year is 1985. Benji Cooper is one of the only black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. He spends his falls and winters going to roller-disco bar mitzvahs, playing too much Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to catch glimpses of nudity on late night cable tv. After a tragic mishap on his first day of high school--when Benji reveals his deep enthusiasm for the horror movie magazine Fangoria--his social doom is sealed for the next four years.

But every summer, Benji and his brother, Reggie, escape to the East end of Long Island, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African-American professionals have built a world of their own. Because their parents come out only on weekends, he and his friends are left to their own devices for three glorious months. Except Benji is just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates during the school year. There's always a complicated new handshake to fumble through, state-of-the-art profanity to master, and his fantasies of hooking up with the opposite sex are no match for his awkwardness. And let's not get started on his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), the New Coke Tragedy of '85, and his secret Lite FM addition.

In this deeply affectionate and fiercely funny coming of age novel, Whitehead--using the perpetual mortification of teenage existence and the desperate quest for reinvention --beautifully explores racial and class identity, illustrating how it is impossible to define an individual in isolation from his family's communal history.

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead isn't a book I would typically have chosen at the bookstore to read. So I'm glad I joined in the Barnes and Nobles First Look Book club experience which exposed me to this story. It is truly a coming of age story during the 1980's. The story struck a chord with me, because even though I was 26 at the time versus Benji's 15, his experiences brought back many memories from that period of time, plus when I was his age. The music, the special handshakes, ditching your best friend for a date, trying to impress the opposite sex, sibling rivalry and of course, trying to fit in. Benji's story not only explores the life of a teenager trying to be a teenager and fit in, but all the issues of family, friends, race and social life.

The story is interesting, humorous, thought provoking, heart rendering at times and I highly recommend it.

Pages: 288
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: April 28, 2009

1 comment:

  1. I've been reading good things about Sag Harbor. Your review has put me over the line! I think I'm going to have to read it.


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