5. Sag Harbor

by Colson Whitehead

It’s the beginning of March and I have completed only 5 books? I gotta get on my grind!

I don’t know if you guys know it but teachers are still assigning Catcher In the Rye for their students to read. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book when I read it 25 years ago, but I also thought that Holden Caulfield was a whiny, spoiled brat. His coming of age story in no way reflected the ones of my peers and I.

That’s why books like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and now Sag Harbor are so awesome. Although both are told from male perspectives, the references are still relevant to those of us who grew up in communities of color in major metropolitan areas (especially the northeast). The music, the food, the movies, & television shows are all ones that I remember and can relate to.

Sag Harbor is Whitehead’s fictional account of a summer in 1985 that he spent with his family in the popular summer vacation destination of African-American professionals. Left there by parents who come out only on weekends, the protagonist Benji, his brother Reggie and their friends are on their own. During the year when he lives in anonymous Manhattan he can gleefully take part in his otherness which includes a fondness for Dungeons & Dragons, punk-rock and other things that Black boys aren’t supposed to like. His summer friends know all the complex soul handshakes, listen to hip-hop and are already lying about the girls they have conquered. Trying to fit in is a full-time job.

Colson Whitehead is hands down one of my favorite authors. His humor and imagination are incredible. Sag Harbor, with its poignant telling of an awkward, somewhat isolated boy in familiar territory is a wonderful addition to his body of work.

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