From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys: a tender, hilarious, and supremely original novel about coming-of-age in the 80s.
Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. But every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own.
The summer of ’85 won’t be without its usual trials and tribulations, of course. There will be complicated new handshakes to fumble through and state-of-the-art profanity to master. Benji will be tested by contests big and small, by his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), by the New Coke Tragedy, and by his secret Lite FM addiction. But maybe, just maybe, this summer might be one for the ages.
Look for Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Harlem Shuffle, coming this September!
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Colson Whitehead’s autobiographical fourth novel is a sweetly nostalgic coming-of-age story. In a black enclave of upper-middle-class Long Island in 1985, Benji Cooper—a 15-year-old budding intellectual who loves both The Cosby Show and The Smiths—spends the summer hanging with his friends and discovering the opposite sex while enjoying the newfound freedoms of adolescence. Whitehead has a lot of fun with the era—minor ’80s pop star Lisa Lisa, now-horrifying fashion trends, and New Coke all make appearances—but Sag Harbor is also a thoughtful, socially conscious meditation on black identity, class, and acceptance that represents for the outsiders.
In what Whitehead describes as his "Autobiographical Fourth Novel" (as opposed to the more usual autobiographical first novel), the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist John Henry Days explores the in-between space of adolescence through one boy's summer in a predominantly black Long Island neighborhood. Benji and Reggie, brothers so closely knit that many mistake them for twins, have been coming out to Sag Harbor for as long as they can remember. For Benji, each three-month stay at Sag is a chance to catch up with friends he doesn't see the rest of the year, and to escape the social awkwardness that comes with a bad afro, reading Fangoria, and being the rare African-American student at an exclusive Manhattan prep school. As he and Reggie develop separate identities and confront new factors like girls, part-time jobs and car-ownership, Benji struggles to adapt to circumstances that could see him joining the ranks of "Those Who Don't Come Out Anymore." Benji's funny and touching story progresses leisurely toward Labor Day, but his reflections on what's gone before provide a roadmap to what comes later, resolving social conflicts that, at least this year, have yet to explode.
Say what you will about story and subject matter. This author writes extremely well. It is not often that one comes across an author whose prose are so very descriptive and poetic. Read this book for the enjoyment of its writing, laugh out loud as it speaks to you.
This book is the biggest steaming pile of garbage I've ever read. I'm an avid reader, and somehow I only see this book being a waste of paper and ink. So, unless this is required reading for you, save yourself the trouble.