Colson Whitehead, 2009
Out from under constant white scrutiny, Sag Harbor is where Benji can feel like himself—except that he's not sure what that "self" should be. This summer, 1985, Benji makes a plan to find out.
Unlike typical coming-of-age stories, there's no big payoff at the end, no giant leap over the threshold into the grownup world. Instead, Benji's summer is composed of momentary enlightenments, random events that open the door to maturity by only a crack.
At the end of the book, our narrator—an older, wiser Benji, now "Ben"—gives us an Alice-Through-the Looking-Glass moment. Here's older Ben observing a younger Benji and telling us how he is looking for his older, future self—the adult he will someday become:
[Benji] would not recognize the man he came to be. The poor sap. I need him to figure out how I got where I am, and he needs me to reassure him that despite all he knows and has seen and feels, there is more. I can listen to him. But of course he can't hear a damn thing I'm saying.
I love this book...especially Benji's smart, hilarious, made-me-laugh-out-loud voice as he parses the many conflicting cultures around him—black, white, teen, adult, "bourgie" (bourgeoise), and hip. Oh, one more thing: a girl in the book says to Benjie and his buddies, "You use some foul language." It's true...just to warn you.
See our Reading Guide for Sag Harbor.
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