In rural Virginia in 1960, history professor Gen Rider has secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. A woman in a man's field, she teaches "Negro" history, which has made her suspect with a powerful male colleague. Even while she's celebrating her triumph, she's also mourning the break-up of a long-distance relationship with another woman--a romance she has tightly guarded, even from her straight female mentor.
As the fall semester dawns, a male instructor at the college is arrested for having sex with a man in a park. Homosexual panic envelops the college town, launching a "Know Your Neighbor" reporting campaign. The police investigation directly threatens Gen's friend Fenton, the gay theater director at Baines. But Gen finds herself vulnerable, too, when someone leaves mysterious "gifts" for her, including a suggestive pulp novel and a romantic card.
As Gen tentatively embarks on a new relationship, a neighbor reports she's seen Gen kissing a woman, and hearings into her morality catch her in a McCarthy-like web. With her private life under the microscope, Gen faces an agonizing choice: Which does she value more, the career she's scraped to build against the odds or her right to a private life?
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