Colson Whitehead's 2009 coming-of-age novel "Sag Harbor'' will be adapted into an HBO Max series, the streamer announced Thursday via a post in Deadline. Daniel KOA Beaty — who wrote and starred in 2014's acclaimed one-man play about Paul Robeson, "The Tallest Street in the Forest" — is attached to write, according to Deadline. Laurence Fishburne is one of the executive producers, per the website.
No launch date was given, but this will be Whitehead's second streaming series — his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Underground Railroad" (2016) was recently adapted into an Emmy-nominated Amazon Prime limited series by Barry Jenkins. (Whitehead again won the Pulitzer last year for his latest novel, "The Nickel Boys.")
Set in Azurest — one of the three so-called SANS (Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, Ninevah) communities that lie just to the east of downtown Sag Harbor — the novel "Sag Harbor" is about brothers, Ben (or "Benji"), 15, and Reggie, 14, who plunge into the teen social whirl of Sag Harbor during the summer of 1985. Based on Whitehead's own family vacations there growing up, a 2009 Wall Street Journal story on the novel explained that "it concerns 15-year-old Benji Cooper who, like Mr. Whitehead's 15-year-old self, works in an ice cream parlor, gets into a BB gun fight and adores the British alternative rock band the Smiths."
Whitehead, now 51, told the newspaper, "having written a string of books that were heavy on the ideas and social critique, I wanted to try something more modest and personal."
Azurest was conceived in the late '30s by sisters Maude Terry and Amaza Lee Meredith, who turned 20-or-so marshy acres on Sag Harbor Bay with a view to the north of Mashomack Preserve into what is now the oldest historically Black subdivision in the United States. The name is a derivation of "azure," or as Meredith (who died in 1984) wrote in her sister's 1968 funeral elegy, the name means "heavenly peace, blue rest, blue haven."
Some of that wistfulness also finds its way into Whitehead's novel, which begins with the question the boys ask their friends every summer, "when did you get out?":
" 'When did you get out?' was the sound of our trap biting shut; we took the bait year after year, pure pinned joy in the town of Sag Harbor."
In a statement, Beaty said of the book, "It’s a world and family rarely seen on screen, and that’s thrilling during these transformational times."