‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

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I just finished Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor and it is a phenomenal read. My only criticism is that the book is a tad too long.

The story centers around a young boy Benji who shares his childhood and adolescent experiences of living in Sag Harbor an all black community in the Hamptons.

This is definitely a summer read and as the summer unfolds for Benji and his friends, a pastiche of the mid 80s is revealed to the reader, roller-rinks, bbq’s, boardwalks, minimum wage jobs. Benji and his friends try to define themselves against the previous generations of their black community and yet the realization hits home that they are no different than their parents, their love affairs, their adventures, their encounters with racism, abuse, violence, boredom, and more.

Colson Whitehead writes not so much about people but place, as I recently tweeted to Mr. Whitehead on twitter, his books are enjoyable, at least to me, not because of the WHO, but because of the WHERE. It is how the summer and this particular location in the Hamptons, an all black community that guides the story. The plot is fairly loose in this novel and meanders along much in the same way that Benji and his friends explore the summer. It presents the readers with a series of reflections on adolescence: the awkwardness of the first kiss, competition amongst friends to define themselves and create an identity during the teen years.

sag-harbor-0309-lg-70936749If you’re looking for a light summer read, this is definitely the book for you. If you’re headed anywhere warm such as a beach or lake front, pick this up, you will not be disappointed.

One of the strengths and one of my favorite themes of the book centers around how different the cottage, lake-house, the place that we occupy during the summer months is  as opposed to the rest of the year. There is a separate life that exists in the summer, our friends and family behave and act differently during the summer compared with the winter, a second alternative self is reborn each summer. Benji and Mr. Colson Whitehead explore this second self and what it means when that last summer weekend encroaches. A question that Benji often asks and fears is how he will change as he returns to the city and the fast paced life of school and work in the fall.

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Written by thebeliever07

June 12, 2009 at 7:42 pm

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