Rivka's Reviews > Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
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's review
Jul 08, 2010

it was amazing

The first 50 pages I was mostly annoyed, another story about kid with a beach house with too many feelings. Boring. But I liked the voice- the older Benji (maybe he'd finally become the Ben that he'd hoped) telling about the summer of his fifteenth year. The conversation tone, the nostaglic melancoly mixed with humor and the relief of "thank god we grew up" was comforting. So I read it slowly. A hundred pages in I saw Colson Whitehead read a passage from the book and chat about it. He talked about how the criticism had mostly been that nothing happened in the book, about how autobiographical (or not) the book. I think the discussion about whether the book works as YA is a moot point too. While the book is about the summer that Benji was 15, the narrator is definitively an adult. That being said, I think the themes are completely relatable for teens and adults. The best part of this book (in my opinion) was that "nothing" happened because the thing is that when you're fifteen everything is monumental because feelings (and also hormones, man. Whitehead has this uncanny ability to put you in a time and place without feeling like you've been transported- it just was 1985 Sag Harbor. Just as a note too, I think it's completely lame that there are so many references to the book being semi-autobiographical; if it's in the fiction section of a book store (and god help the book stores that really do put Whitehead's book in African-American Literature sections and the like), leave it alone.

PS- If anyone else reads this (or has read this), I'm super interested in having a discussion about the influence on Dubois on the book. I haven't read any interviews that discuss this and I think the mention of it at the beginning of the book warrants some talking about.

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