**spoiler alert** I have always wanted to read this book but never found the time. So a few weeks ago, while examining my bookshelf and trying to deci**spoiler alert** I have always wanted to read this book but never found the time. So a few weeks ago, while examining my bookshelf and trying to decide what to read next, I picked this one up. I quickly realized that I had no real idea about what the book was about.
This book follows Janie, a young African American girl, from her teenage years through about her 40's. Janie is light-skinned and is known for her unusual straight hair. When she is a teenager, Janie's grandmother arranges for her to marry a wealthy farmer. However, Janie quickly realizes that she doesn't love this man, and soon leaves him for another man, Jody Starks. She and the other man move to Eatonville, Florida where her new husband quickly becomes a community leader, becoming mayor of the town and opening the town's store. However, as the years go by, Jody begins to mistreat Janie. Eventually he becomes ill and passes away. Less than a year after Jody's death, Janie is courted by a new man, Tea Cake, who is younger than she is. They marry and move to southern Florida where they "work the muck." However, true to form, Tea Cake also begins to mistreat Janie, and their story eventually meets a tragic end.
The dialogue in book is written in Southern Black dialect, so it can take some time to figure out what the characters are saying and get through the book. The narrative descriptions are absolutely beautiful and poetic, as other reviewers have noted.
The feminist in me was bothered by this book. Throughout the novel, Janie is involved with men who start out talking about how much they love and cherish her, but little by little, they each begin to mistreat her. I kept coming back to what Janie's grandmother tells her in the beginning of the book: "Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able to find out...So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man to pick it up. He pick it up because he half to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule of de world as fur as Ah can see."
So, with the first two men, you see them at first keeping Janie in the home, and then eventually they start asking her to come work with them, and the mistreatment begins from there. Janie never loved Logan, the first man, and she did love Jody at first but soon grew to resent him. But then she meets Tea Cake, who is the love of her life. And he does the exact same thing to her that the other men did, but she still loves him!
Anyway, I guess perhaps this book is a product of its time (written in 1937) and so I can't judge it by modern standards, but I'm just not sure what this book is trying to say about the relationships between black men and women... I need to mull this one over some more....more
This book took me longer to read than it should have. Seems to be a common theme with me lately...
Sag Harbor is a coming-of-age story about Benji, a 1This book took me longer to read than it should have. Seems to be a common theme with me lately...
Sag Harbor is a coming-of-age story about Benji, a 15-year-old African American boy who attends private school in Manhattan. He and his brother are the only African American kids at their school, but every summer he and his family go to Sag Harbor, an African American summer community out near the Hamptons. In 1985, Benji and his brother Reggie spend most of the summer by themselves, as their parents both work in the city during the week. Through the course of the summer, Benji comes to realize some important things about his family, his friends, and himself.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked Benji as a character. I thought Whitehead did a good job of portraying him at that age where he was awkward yet beginning to come into himself. Benji was pretty endearing, I felt. I enjoyed seeing Sag Harbor through Benji's eyes as he navigated his friendships and the community around him.
Whitehead has a knack for descriptions. I really like the way he writes. As I read this book, I really felt like I was in 1985. (I don't remember 1985 really well, as I was only 5 years old, but anyway...) The voice in the book really comes across as someone looking back, sort of memoir like. So you get some sense of Benji, as an adult, reflecting back on the summer with some perspective based on how things turned out for him and his friends.
This book does contain some strong language that some might find offensive....more