John's Reviews > Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
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Sep 09, 09

Read in August, 2009

A coming of age tale which spans the early to late teenage experiences of Benji and his brother revealed during one summer-long break. The brothers are the mostly sole inhabitants of their parents' second home found in the middle class, racially segregated black wonderland of Sag Harbor, NY.

Whitehead explores the values and differences of middle class African-American culture in the mid 80's. The auto-biographical style offers a palpable sense of teen-gangly, boy angst while the prose reveals experiences and memories that transcend race as much as they must also be rooted in race.

In addition to race, themes of gender, class identity, and generational power struggles form inside this 2009 novel set in 1985. Stories are told as remembrances and feel both fresh and familiar. No chapter captures this feeling more than the "Heyday of Dag." This protracted musing on the word "dag" finds the main character considering and launching into the playful yet insulting banter of young men actively honing verbal combat skills in search of friendship and quarry.

Similar to one of Whitehead's earlier and notable works, _The Intuitionist_, readers are treated to another engaging installment by one of the best novelists actively considering class in modern America, especially from the point of view of middle-class America. Race is of course well apportioned even while Whitehead may have even more to say about the importance of class in the formation of his characters.
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