Friday, May 15, 2009

the power of a book

I just finished Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor and I'm ready to go down the shore. Those were the words my family used as we rattled around the basement digging up beach chairs, rummaged through cupboards for beach towels, and filled a bag full of summer reading material. We drove to Ocean City, New Jersey. Joan's family headed to Stone Harbor, Helen's to Avalon. Everyone had their family traditions and locations. No matter what, everybody spent at least one evening on the Wildwood boardwalk.

Sag Harbor is an extremely well written fictional memoir of a teen, Benji, who's family always spends summers in Sag Harbor, the beach enclave for African Americans. Set in 1985, with the Cosby show as background noise, Benji reflects on being age 15. He and his brother, Reggie, get their first jobs and are in charge of themselves during the week. Weekends bring the parents in from the city and Benji is aware of parental dynamics and mild dysfunction.

I enjoyed the fresh voice, the well written casual flow of action, and Benji's humor. As a private school attendee he reflects on what it's like to reconnect with old friends each summer, learn the latest lingo, hear the newest music, and emerge from a scholastically privileged world. Sag Harbor appreciates the ebb and flow of summer beach life and conjures a worthy cool yet awkward character in Benji (wanting to be called Ben). I highly recommend this book. Dig your toes in the sand and revel in a smooth read.

Like me, you'll yearn for a summer down the shore.


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