The Professor's Daughter: A Novel

( 1 )


"My father is black and my mother is white and my brother is a vegetable." When Emma Boudreaux's older brother winds up in a coma after a freak accident, she loses her compass: only Bernie was able to navigate—if not always diplomatically—the terrain of their biracial identity. And although her father and brother are bound by a haunting past that Emma slowly uncovers, she sees that she might just escape.

In exhilarating prose, The Professor's Daughter traces the borderlands of race and family, contested territory...

See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$13.70 price
(Save 23%)$18.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (27) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $7.13   
  • Used (15) from $1.99   
The Professor's Daughter: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - First Edition)
$7.99 price


"My father is black and my mother is white and my brother is a vegetable." When Emma Boudreaux's older brother winds up in a coma after a freak accident, she loses her compass: only Bernie was able to navigate—if not always diplomatically—the terrain of their biracial identity. And although her father and brother are bound by a haunting past that Emma slowly uncovers, she sees that she might just escape.

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

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A first-rate job, a book that shows great subtlety and skill."—Robert Stone

"Raboteau paints Emma's world with grand, sweeping strokes. . . . Her timing is excellent, her humor is wry, her voice is on point, and her eye works with laser-like precision. Raboteau's sensitivity to life and to people is nothing short of astounding."—Francesca Wodtke, San Francisco Chronicle

"A bolt of energy . . . Fearless and . . . inventive, Raboteau is a writer to watch."—O magazine

"The world that Emily Raboteau has so wonderfully created here is at turns harsh, beautiful, strange, and always real. This work is unflinchingly intelligent."—Percival Everett, author of Erasure

Library Journal
Born of a white mother and a black father, a distant Princeton professor, Emma loses the one anchor she has when her beloved brother ends up in a coma. There's big enthusiasm for this debut. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In this powerful and unflinchingly stark story, Emma Boudreaux often reaches into the past to try to understand the present. Her father is black and her mother is white, and the teen is trying to find her place in a world in which she feels like an outsider. Her brother, Bernie, strong and perfect and comfortable with his blackness, is her anchor, her compass. When he has a freak accident and becomes a "vegetable," Emma feels abandoned and emotionally isolated. Left alone to discover who she is, she explores the past, especially her father's, Princeton professor Bernard Boudreaux. His own narrative reveals grim secrets and a twisted, tortured journey through family history to the present. At its darkest and most painful is the lynching of his father before he was born. It will take all of Emma's strength and resolve to survive, and to escape the shadowy and painful legacies that ensnared her father and brother. Raboteau's writing is vivid, compelling, and fearless as she tackles themes of racial violence, anger, family secrets, and self-discovery. The author changes perspective several times, from Emma to her father and even to Bernie in his comatose state, showing how each character is shaped by time and history. Readers will enjoy the history woven into the superb storytelling as Raboteau skillfully interweaves past and present events to reveal that love does somehow survive.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An award-winning storywriter's first novel underscores the effects of racism on three generations of an African-American family. "My father is black and my mother is white and my brother is a vegetable," explains Emma Boudreaux, sometime narrator of this nonlinear story of the Boudreaux family-including Emma's grandfather, father and brother. Professor Bernard Boudreaux Junior (BJ), the first black dean of Princeton's Graduate School of Arts and Science, grew up poor and disabled in Mississippi. A scholarship to a privileged school taught him that if he could not be white, like his tormenting peers, then he must achieve. But despite marriage to a white woman, "so my children wouldn't inherit our misery," BJ can't escape his legacy: the brutal, racist murder of his father, the first Bernard, an act that drove his mother insane. Bernie, Emma's gifted brother, is beautiful "the way a leopard is. Or twilight." But Bernie is destroyed when he accidentally urinates on a live rail line and is electrocuted, rendering him "raceless, faceless," with skin like raw meat, and brain-dead. Raboteau's reliance on unnuanced symbolism continues with Emma's occasional but extreme skin eruptions, which sometimes divide one side of her face from the other, "an outer manifestation of my inner state." Bernie's accident takes place six weeks after Emma's arrival at Yale. His eventual death and her abandonment by a lover who shares her skin color precipitate flight, first to New Orleans, then New York. On 9/11, she is attacked for looking Arabic. Finally, in Brazil, she reaches a place where everyone "looked like some permutation of her" so she can "begin." This triple-decker history of socially encouraged,physically expressed self-loathing doesn't take flight in the tale of Emma's release but in that of BJ's anguish and isolation, where Raboteau does succeed in articulating a sense of true pain. Part literary saga, part litany of righteous parables: an impassioned, poetic work that offers commitment as compensation for its overdeterminism. Agent: Amy Williams/Collins McCormick
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312425685
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/24/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,424,871
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily Raboteau is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award and a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches creative writing at the City College of New York.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

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?"


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."
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. People perplexed by Emma’s ethnicity repeatedly ask her, "what are you?" How does she respond to that question? In what way is the novel itself an answer?

2. Emma feels invisible next to her brother, Bernie. In particular, she feels invisible to her father, Bernard. Why? How does that invisibility affect her childhood and her development into a habitual runaway? Conversely, Bernard was extremely visible as the only black child in an all-white, private boy’s school. Compare and contrast Emma and Bernard’s childhood experiences.

3. The circumstances surrounding the death of Bernard’s father are kept secret from him until he goes off to New Orleans to integrate St. Ignatius Prep. Nan Zan explains: "Hate works like a circle if you don’t stop it somewhere." Why did she keep the truth from him for so long and what are the repercussions?

4. Bernard’s best friend, Professor Lester, marries an Ethiopian woman. How does Lester’s approach to blackness and black history differ from Bernard’s? What role does he play in Bernie’s life? Why does Bernard resent Lester for his attempts to teach his son to "be black?"

5. How does Bernie deal with his mixed-race heritage? Does he exploit it? Discuss his manner, speech, physical appearance, and behavior. How does his identity differ from his sister’s? Bernie-ism 18:1 says, "It is a privilege to be able to invent oneself. It is also a burden." What might he mean by this?

6. How does Bernie’s accident affect the members of the family? Discuss the link between the first Bernard’s death and Bernie’s accident. Does Bernard Jr.’s refusal to discuss his father in some way contribute to his son’s death?

7. Raboteau describes herself as a Catholic writer. Many of the episodes in the book (such as Meteke’s transformation into the White Buffalo Woman in order to stop the deer hunt) are formulated as complex parables. All three of the Bernards are perceived variously as Christ figures by other characters in the book. Give examples of where this occurs in the text. Who are the Bernards meant to save and what are the psychological consequences of that kind of pressure? How does Emma figure into this equation?

8. Emma almost seems to be able to control her recurrent rash. She gets it for the first time when she and Bernie paint their faces with black shoe polish. Is the rash a punishment? Is it self-induced? Could it be psychosomatic? What does it symbolize?

9. Emma studies Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth in her ongoing inquiry into her own heritage and writes a story about an African girl, "The Origins of Little Willa," in lieu of a college paper. How does Willa’s story parallel Emma’s/Bernard’s? What else does Emma write? Discuss her role as writer throughout the novel. How does her writing change?

10. Aunt Patty tells the children a story about her alcoholic father’s dashed dream to be a pilot. Bernie dreams of actually flying. After his death, flight becomes Emma’s defense mechanism when she runs away, first to New Orleans, later to Brazil. What is she looking for? What are her other defense mechanisms for dealing with the terror of abandonment—by her brother, her father, Poresh, etc.? Why does Emma choose Lou, a man whom her mother describes as "beneath her" and who abuses alcohol? Discuss the role of alcoholism in the book.

11. How does Aunt Patty’s confession of despair at the AA meeting affect Bernard? Describe Bernard’s testimony. Does he, like Patty, still live in the shadow of his father? Do Bernie and Emma live in his? What does Bernard want for his own children? What does Emma mean when she says she wants to "begin?"

12. When Patty and Lynn go to Atlantic City, Bernard realizes that Lynn is the "glue" that holds the family together. What is his role? Why does Bernard disconnect from his family? How does his emotional absence affect Lynn, Bernie, and Emma? Would you describe his character as "self-loathing?" Why or why not?

13. Emma relates the story of Deb Levine, and her mother’s attempt at stability after Bernard leaves them for a graduate student. To Emma’s surprise, Lynn has been taking flying lessons. What does Deb’s death, and the manner of her death, reveal to Emma about her mother’s strength?

14. The narrative of The Professor’s Daughter flip-flops from Emma’s perspective to Bernard’s. Whose story did you find more compelling? Brief interludes from Bernie’s comatose perspective are also included. How do these contribute to the book’s tone? Who would you describe as the hero of this book and why?

15. In a prayer to his father through his son’s walkie-talkie, Bernard confesses that he married a white woman so that his children wouldn’t "inherit our misery." He has inherited his father’s name, as has Bernie. Emma steals what might have been Lou’s inheritance to finance her own to flight to Brazil, where she feels free for the first time in her life. In the final chapter, Bernard returns home to reclaim his inheritance, which he gives to his daughter. Discuss the metaphor of inheritance in the book. In what ways are the characters stymied by their fathers’ histories? Do you think Emma is equipped to break that pattern?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    A Little Disappointed

    After reading some great reviews on this book, I was so excited to read it. The book was alright but it didn't live up to my expectations. I think the some of the characters could have been better developed...Emma, Bernie, and their mother Lynn were complete mysteries. Bernard Jr. is the only character that I truly felt like I connected with...Too much time was spent on stories that didn't fit with what I thought the book was trying to convey(Lester's wife Meteke and Little Willa).

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)