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Emma Jean Cooper, nicknamed “Emma Jean Two” by her father, was born in 1966, in the small town of Crooked River, Arkansas, where poverty and prejudice were rampant. Emma Jean grew up with plenty of both, to the extent that her father was active in the Ku Klux Klan and exposed his daughter at an early age to the group’s clandestine activities. Her mother, who had been raised in a dysfunctional, abusive situation, was unable to cope with the death of her first daughter, also named Emma Jean, and so transferred that daughter’s identity to Emma Jean Two, claiming she was the reincarnation of her dead sister. Emma Jean’s childhood was so traumatic and she experienced such extreme parental abuse and rejection that she spent much of her time daydreaming of a better life somewhere—anywhere—away from her family.
Ironically it is an African-American classmate named Sadie Garret, a preacher’s daughter, who finally gives eighteen-year-old Emma Jean Cooper, daughter of an active Ku Klux Klan member, the courage she needs to escape her racist, abusive environment. Literally running for her life, Emma Jean hitchhikes to California in search of something better than the destructive existence she has so far endured. The experiences of the next few years are beyond anything Emma Jean could ever have imagined, and ultimately serve only to turn her back toward home to confront the evil she thought she had escaped.
Back in Crooked River, Emma Jean takes refuge with her former classmate Sadie and, eventually, in an African-American church, where she begins to learn the secret to overcoming her past and establishing her own identity for a positive future.
Though loosely based on a compilation of true accounts, Emma Jean Reborn is purely a work of fiction.