Sag Harbor

Publisher: Harvill Secker

In 1985, the time of the action, Sag Harbor has a large African-American summer community, and for Benji, the fifteen-year-old main character, it is special. 'There was summer, and then there was the rest of the year...Sag Harbor was outside the rules.' He and his friends lead innocent lives and try to come to terms with the duality of their existences. For they are the only black kids in their classes and schools and thus have to partition part of themselves for school and parts of themselves for Sag Harbor.

Thus it becomes a mythical, mystical, nostalgic setting for growing up. Benji, our main man, and his twin Reggie, earn money in cooking jobs, stalk the beaches for nudists and scare off any outsiders who try to beach themselves on their sections of the beach. Benji's a Converse-wearing, Smiths-loving, Dungeons & Dragons-playing nerd whose favourite Star Wars character is the hapless bounty hunter Greedo - out of sorts with his peers and contemporaries The other boys, especially twin Reggie, who despite their lack of exposure to urban black culture are still rocking out to Afrika Bambataa and the Zulu Nation, scolding Benji when he informs them of where their samples come from (in this case, the Kraftwerk-sampling Planet Rock), seem more at ease with their sense of identity than Benji does and this pervades the rest of their 3 month unsupervised holiday in the summer of 1985.

Essentially a coming of age novel, Benji's narrated story tells of his first kiss, the removal of braces, BB gun battles, slinging hip insults and deconstructing the myth of identity and what it means to be Benji. Filled with nostalgia, summery vibes, oodles of pop culture and hilarious self-deprecating narrative, Sag Harbor is a warm and funny piece of literary comedy that is laidback like the summer it depicts and staunchly proud of its identity.

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