The Professor's Daughter: A Novel

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9780805075069: The Professor's Daughter: A Novel

A daughter's future and her father's past converge in this explosive first novel exploring identity, assimilation, and the legacy of race

"My father is black and my mother is white and my brother is a vegetable." 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 is emotionally absent and secretive about his family history. Little does Emma know just how haunted that history is, how tortured the path from the Deep South town to his present Ivy League success has been. Though her father and brother are bound by the past, Emma might just escape.

In exhilarating, magical prose, The Professor's Daughter traces the borderlands of race and family, the contested territory that gives birth to rage, confusion, madness, and invisibility. This striking debut marks the arrival of an astonishingly original voice that surges with energy and purpose.

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About the Author:

Emily Raboteau holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, where she was a New York Times Fellow. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction, and a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship. Her stories have been published in Tin House, The Missouri Review, and Best American Short Stories 2003. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches creative writing at the City College of New York.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From The Professor's Daughter:
We are lying in the wet grass staring at the moon. It is summer and there is a golf course spread out like the train of a bridal gown down at the bottom of the hill. There are old people down there, dancing between the sand traps under paper lanterns. It is their reunion and they have an orchestra and the orchestra is playing a waltz and the violins trill out strings of sound that fly like kites up to us on the hill.
My brother looks like an Arabian prince. His saxophone is dismembered. The pieces are shining laid out in a circle around us. Bernie is pulling on a joint and holding the smoke in his lungs so long I worry he's not breathing. The moon is watching us. I touch his face and he lets go the smoke and it rolls away slowly.

"I found out what happened to Bernard Number One," he tells me. Our dad's dad is a secret.

"Did Dad tell you?"

"No."

Bernie and our dad don't talk anymore. They made our dad the first black dean and he moved us to this castle overlooking a golf course and he looked around and said what the hell am I doing here, my life is halfway over and look where I am. He told us, "I may be gone for one month, I may be gone for two months, I may be gone forever."

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