Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor evokes a time of fun-filled summers spent at the shore during carefree seasonal breaks from high school. But are teenagers’ summers truly fun-filled? Are high school years ever carefree? Not for Benji and Reggie Cooper. During the summer of 1985 they undergo young adult growing pains brought on by querulous parents, clique-obsessed friends and boring minimum wage jobs at local fast food haunts.
Their Sag Harbor summer home, passed down from grandparents, is located on a stretch of shore that’s a destination point for well-to-do African American families in the Hamptons area of New York. Benji and Reggie are left to their own devices during the week when their parents leave to work in the city. Upon their return at the weekends, the parents project their exacting standards on their sons.
Dealing with demanding tourists at the Burger King and ice cream shop by day, the brothers hang out with their group of buddies on their days off. They endure the effects of ill-advised fashion choices and the occasional bad asymmetrical haircut. They fixate on the cute girls sunning at the beach.
Their world is defined by the social order of Sag Harbor, both their friends’ concept of being “cool” and their parents’ overwhelming desire to maintain a high status in this prestige-conscious community. References to popular culture mainstays of the 1980s add authenticity to the brothers as literary characters and Sag Harbor as a unique setting for their summer lives to unfold.
If you like the character driven and setting-rich narrative of Sag Harbor, you might want to try
Dirty Jersey by Phillip Thomas Duck or Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier.

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