A daughter's future and her father's past converge in this novel about identity, assimilation, and the legacy of race in America. When Emma Boudreaux's older brother, Bernie, winds up in a coma after a freak accident, it's as if she loses a part of herself. All their lives, he has served as her compass, her stronger, better half: Bernie was brilliant when Emma was smart, charismatic when she was awkward, and confident when she was shy. Only Bernie was able to navigate—if not always diplomatically—the terrain of their biracial identity. Now, as the chronic rash that's flared up throughout her life returns with a vengeance, Emma is sleepwalking through her first year at college, left alone to grow into herself.
The key to Emma's self-discovery lies in her father's past. Esteemed Princeton professor Bernard Boudreaux II is emotionally absent and secretive about his family history. Little does Emma know just how haunted that history is, how tortured the path has been from his Deep South roots to his present Ivy League success. But although her father and brother are bound by the past, Emma herself might just escape. The Professor's Daughter traces the borderlands of race and family, the contested territory that gives birth to rage, confusion, madness, and invisibility.