Berkeley Arts & Letters: Colson Whitehead -- Sag Harbor
The year is 1985. Benji Cooper is one of the only black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. He spends his falls and winters going to roller-disco bar mitzvahs, playing too much Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to catch glimpses of nudity on late-night cable TV. After a tragic mishap on his first day of high school - when Benji reveals his deep enthusiasm for the horror movie magazine Fangeria - his social doom is sealed for the next four years. But every summer, Benji and his brother escape to the East End of Long Island, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African-American professionals has built a world of their own. Because their parents come out only on weekends, he and his friends are left to their own devices for three glorious months. Except Benji is just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates during the school year.
MacArthur and Whiting Award winner, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and author of acclaimed novels, including The Intuitionist and John Henry Days, Colson Whitehead delivers a deeply affectionate and fiercely funny coming-of-age novel while exploring racial and class identity, illustrating how it is impossible to define an individual in isolation from his family's communal history.
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