Read of the Day: “This Ain’t The Hamptons — This is Bonac”
6:30 pm, July 31st | by Weiyu Li
Today’s Read of the Day offers a different perspective on East Hampton, one that may conflict with everything you gleaned from Real Housewives of New York. In her Narrative.ly essay, Tara Israel gets up close and personal with “the year-rounders.”
For centuries we have taken care of our own, a fiercely protective community that operates like an extended family, and the only way to be included is by paying your dues. We know the nicknames of all the characters in town. We know how to give driving directions by only referencing landmarks that were torn down 15 years ago. We have experienced the boredom of a Wednesday night in March. We know there’s a difference between having a lot and thinking you have a lot. We learn to love your enemy, because someday they may marry into your family.
We call this place “Bonac,” taking the name from the Accabonac Creek that runs through the area.
To be a “Bonacker,” a true local, is defined differently by everyone. At one time, it meant that no fewer than three generations of your family had called East Hampton home.
Now, first-generation locals wonder where they belong, as they don’t identify with the city folk, but don’t feel they have any right to claim status as a Bonacker.
If you ask 100 locals to choose one person who embodies the town of East Hampton, you will get 100 different answers. Many call this town home, but few locals have an absolute sense of belonging. Some have been pushed out by the crushing cost of living, despite their families’ hundreds of years of history. I embarked on this body of work because I was tired of feeling that the town I hold so precious has only been defined by outsiders. Over the past four years I sought to demonstrate that the reason no one person could ever speak for the entirety of Bonackers is because there is no singular experience. The peculiar nature of collective memory makes us a community, but it is the rich spectrum of life choices and experiences that makes this East Hampton the biggest small town in the world.
To read the full essay and see Israel’s beautiful portraits of Bonackers, click here.