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From the award-winning author of John Henry Days and The Intuitionist: a tender, hilarious, and supremely original novel about coming-of-age in the 80s.
Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. But every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own.
The summer of ’85 won’t be without its usual trials and tribulations, of course. There will be complicated new handshakes to fumble through and state-of-the-art profanity to master. Benji will be tested by contests big and small, by his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), by the New Coke Tragedy, and by his secret Lite FM addiction. But maybe, just maybe, this summer might be one for the ages.
“Sag Harbor is a kind of black Brighton Beach Memoirs. . . . The novel’s eight chapters are, in effect, masterful short stories [that] riff on the essential quests of teenage boys: BB guns, nude beaches, beer and, above all, the elusive secret to fitting in.” —The Washington Post
"Whitehead has tapped the most classic summer-novel activity of all: nostalgia. . . . The pleasure is in the way Whitehead recalls it, in loving and lingering detail.” —Time
“Lyrical and hilarious.” —Philadelphia City Paper
“Imagine a younger version of Bill Cosby, only more lyrical and far racier, with added literary and sociocultural references at his disposal and a greater familiarity with what the book terms ‘the insistent gray muck that was pop culture’ as it seeped through the ’80s.” —Newsday
“Sag Harbor is also rich in 1985—the sportswear, the radio hits, the sudden and unaccountable appearance of New Coke. . . . Whitehead’s stylistic talents are amply on display . . . [he] has a David Foster Wallace-esque knack for punctuating meticulously figurative constructions with deadpan slacker wit. . . . You can’t help but admire Whitehead’s writerly gifts.” —Los Angeles Times
“All of Whitehead’s previous books were various degrees of funny, and Sag Harbor is funnier than all three combined.” —The Village Voice
“[J]ust as Benji is in the process of remaking himself, one gets the feeling after reading Sag Harbor that Whitehead is taking his first artistic steps away from what has come to be expected from ‘Colson Whitehead.’ And it’s safe to say, we’re happy, and very lucky, to have both the who he was and the who he’ll become out there, telling us like it is.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Effortlessly readable. . . . Masterful at re-creating the organized chaos of the teenage mind.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Pure shimmering brilliance. Colson Whitehead’s affecting new novel joyously lights up a place, a time, a family, and one unforgettable young man. It is also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, a book loaded with the kind of humor that can only soar off a heartbreaking sadness.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook
“Whitehead’s most enjoyable book—warm and funny, carefully observed, and beautifully written, studded with small moments of pain and epiphany. . . . Whitehead seems to be having the time of his life; one can almost feel him relaxing into this book as if it actually were the summer home of his youth. . . . The humor of Sag Harbor—which reaches its apex in a scene involving seminal mid–’80s hip hop group UTFO’s appearance at the local waffle cone emporium, where the rapper known as Dr. Ice provides some astute medical advice—is twinned by pain. It is Benji’s uncertainty about everything that gives him such perspective, imbues even his most casual observations with a sheen of elegiac wisdom. . . . tense, lush, poignant—Sag Harbor at its most satisfying.” —The Boston Globe
“Sea-breeze buoyant . . . teasingly self-aware spirit . . . hilariously trifling intricacies of this self-discovery process. Credit Mr. Whitehead with this: He captures the fire flies of teenage summertime in a jar. . . .What’s best about Sag Harbor is the utter and sometimes mortifying accuracy of its descriptive details . . . equally aware of the tiny nuances of teen culture. . . .When this book’s range encompasses kids, parents, community, tradition and history simultaneously, Mr. Whitehead’s recovered memories don't seem so trivial after all.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Whitehead’s delicious language and sarcastic, clever voice fit this teenager who’s slowly constructing himself. . . . It’s time for us to hear more post-black stories like this.” —The New York Times Book Review
“In his ebullient, supremely confident fourth novel . . . offers such pleasures only a grump would complain. . . . Debates and disquisitions about the timeless ephemera of pop culture appear in realistic proportion, and the resulting humor feels earned rather than easy, because of its thematic relevance and, above all, Whitehead’ s skill with voice and character . . . come off the page with energy and pathos.” —San Diego Union Tribune
“[Sag Harbor] surges and sings, sifting pop-culture debris down to nuggets of realization. . . . Sag Harbor illustrates the author’s artistic maturation. Whereas Whitehead's wise earlier works often resist service to our sentiments, his clever new novel stokes our emotions and intellect at once.” —Dallas Morning News
“The inventive, gifted Whitehead . . . registers the minutia of ‘80s culture . . . effortlessly readable . . . masterful at re-creating the organized chaos of the teenage mind. Sag Harbor moves between vignettes with the urgency and awareness of a kid still mesmerized by the mundane . . . offers a loving exploration. . . . By opting to show, rather than describe, their innocence, Whitehead recalls its allure. And what better time to reminisce over that than summer?” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Remarkably genial for a book about the trauma of finding yourself, not to mention about being black in America. . . . [Whitehead] can write sentences like nobody’s business and the deepest satisfaction in this book full of them is his crafty turn of phrase . . . light in the best sense, buoyed by its seriousness–a book you could read on the beach but by no means a beach read.”—Bloomberg