Sag Harbor


Sag Harbor is a 2009 novel by award-winning author Colson Whitehead.

Sag Harbor takes place in Sag Harbor, a small village in the exclusive Hampton Beaches of New York's Long Island. The novel's main character is Benji, an African American teenager spending the summer in a black enclave of his predominately white and close-knit town along with his brother Reggie. Set in 1985, the novel touches on themes of race, class, and commercial culture.[1]


School's finally out for the summer and the return to Sag Harbor is in full swing. Teenage brothers Benji and Reggie Cooper escape their majority white preparatory academy in Manhattan. Still clad in Brooks Brothers polos and salmon colored pants, the pair re-meet all of their friends. Like most well-to-do kids at their family's beach houses during the summer, most of the teens in Sag Harbor go almost the entire summer with virtually no contact from their parents (aside from occasional visits on the weekends). The lack of authority allows for plenty of interesting run-ins. Benji constantly remakes himself to become the coolest in town.

  • Benji Cooper
  • Reggie Cooper, Benji's Brother
  • Various friends in Sag Harbor: Clive, Marcus, Bobby, Randy, NP

According to Touré's New York Times review of the book, Sag Harbor speaks to a new generation of wealthy young blacks.[1] In the wake of the election of President Barack Obama and the success of other African Americans in the national spotlight, this story of a wealthy black teenager depicts a situation – "black boys with beach houses" – that was however paradoxical when it took place, in 1985.[1] The novel is a fictional account of Whitehead's life at that time. The 2009 publication of Sag Harbor coincides with what Touré terms the post-black period, when blacks are less noticed for their color and more for their public achievements.[1]

Colson Whitehead wanted to take up a different path in writing Sag Harbor, a novel named after the town in which he used to vacation with his family. In a January 2009 Wall Street Journal article, Whitehead said "Having written a string of books that were heavy on the ideas and social critique, I wanted to try something more modest and personal."[2] His previous books The Intuitionist and John Henry Days thus are quite different from Sag Harbor in style and genre. Sag Harbor, on the other hand, is a very personal depiction of Whitehead's own life as a teenager, giving the novel a much more vibrant context, as Whitehead depicts, in fiction, his own experiences including young love, young hate, and even pop-culture events of 1985 such as New Coke.[1]

Release details
  • 2009, USA, Bantam Doubleday Dell ISBN 0-385-52765-9, Pub date 28 April 2009, hardback first edition
  • Finalist, PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
  • Finalist, Hurston-Wright Legacy Award
  1. ^ a b c d e Touré. "Visible Young Man". New York Times. May 3, 2009.
  2. ^ Mechling, Lauren. "Mapping Out a Novel" Wall Street Journal. January 2, 2009 .

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.