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Colson Whitehead's 'Sag Harbor'


Colson Whitehead has been a blazing young star on the literary scene. Black, urbane, gifted, showered with honors: from “The Intuitionist” and “John Henry Days” to “The Colossus of New York” he’s made glittering waves.

His new novel, “Sag Harbor,” is the opposite of blazing. It’s about boys and warm, lazy days summering and coming of age on Long Island in the 1980’s.

But it’s not the stereotype. It’s black boys with beach houses, he writes. Sons of well-set parents. Scooping ice cream. Kicking back. Coming to terms with life and race.

This hour, On Point: Colson Whitehead and “Sag Harbor.”

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Colson Whitehead joins us from New York  His new novel is “Sag Harbor.” He’s the author of five previous novels, including “The Intuitionist,” “John Henry Days,” “The Colossus of New York,” and “Apex Hides the Hurt.”  He’s the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.

You can read an excerpt from “Sag Harbor” at RandomHouse.com.

More links:

Whitehead created this annotated map of Main Street Sag Harbor for The Wall Street Journal.

And here he is in a YouTube video walking around Sag Harbor, talking about the book and its backstory:

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  • MJ Davis

    I’m a 42 year old black woman. My sister and I were the only black kids in the whole school district. Our aunts, uncles and cousins lived on the “other side of the river”. They teased us when we visited about how we dressed, the music we listened to, how we spoke. We went to church in an upperclass black neighborhood where they teased us for not having enough money, not being part of the “rich black clique”. To this day I have a hard time making black friends and relating to black people. But I voted for Obama, although I really wanted Hillary in there. lol


    I am amazed how much Colson Whitehead’s writing sounds like John Updike in rhythm and choice of words and phrasing.
    All writers want to be seen as individual in style and content. I hope Mr. Whitehead takes this as a compliment b/c that is how I mean it.

  • john oleary

    Hey Tom and Colson …
    great show …
    As an Irish Immigrant with an 11 year old son I am very much introduced to AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE .
    Today for the first time I allowed my son to ride his bmx bike to middle school …I feel trepitation as he wants to do his bike tricks with his favourite black folk …

    Ironcally I spent most of my teenage summers -slaving away
    on the family farm ..

    Tom might somewhat relate to this (the farm labour).

    again great show

  • Neil Vigliotta

    I grew up on Long Island, and now live in Central Mass. We recently had a reunion (30 years) and the overwhelming remark was that growing up on Long Island, especially in the summers, was spectacular. We weren’t as affluent as the Hamptons or as Mr. Whitehead apparently was, but still, my home town was the home of scientists and professionals. I… Read More think that for my friends and I there was a feeling that we lived in the center of the universe. We had the Hamptons, the up coming North Fork, and NYC. And that everyone wanted what we had. Looking back, its not too far from the truth. Its not for everyone, but I’d say that for the most part, those of us that no longer live on The Island, we all would love to have that part back.

  • Jack Tremblay

    I’m getting this book.

    I vacation with family on Martha’s Vineyard and we are closest to and frequent the Inkwell beach. In listening to the interview today, I heard the author describe a situation where it was uncomfortable and territorial for one group to overlap another, but I have never experienced that in Oak Bluffs. Of course, that’s just my one white-guy’s perspective.

    I feel great going to the Island and being completely comfortable with other families.
    Living and raising a family in northern Vermont, I’m grateful to have a place like this to visit and experience, even if it is a skewed view of reality.

  • Joe B.

    Interesting interview, I look forward to reading the book.

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