Sag Harbor (novel)

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Sag Harbor
First edition
Author Colson Whitehead
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Doubleday (HB) & Anchor Books (PB)
Publication date
April 28, 2009
Media type Print Hardback
Pages 288 pp
ISBN 0-385-52765-9
OCLC 213766008

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 is over and summer begins and the return to Sag Harbor is finally in full swing. Teenagers Benji and Reggie Cooper escape their majority white preparatory academy in Manhattan. Still clad in Brooks Brothers polos and salmon colored pants, the pair remeet 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 the entire summer with very little contact with their parents besides a weekend visit or two. 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, Nick, 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[edit]

  • 2009, USA, Bantam Doubleday Dell ISBN 0-385-52765-9, Pub date 28 April 2009, hardback first edition



  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 .