"She's Such A Bright Girl: An American Story" is a story of respectability politics gone very wrong. Petula Caesar is raised in the 1970s and 1980s in Paterson, New Jersey and Baltimore, Maryland. Petula's Black parents, dark-brown skinned Christine and a very light-skinned Walter – migrate north from the south to find work. Once their light-skinned daughter is born, Walter realizes her complexion could give her a great advantage in her life if used correctly. Walter raised Petula to be as "White" as possible by straightening her hair, surrounding her with White dolls, only exposing her to culture created by White people, and teaching her to not be too loud, too overbearing, or to take up too much space in the world. Petula was taught to always be aware of how White people viewed her, and to behave in ways that would make White people feel comfortable and unthreatened. In exchange, she would achieve upward mobility and escape the trauma of being Black in America. But while doing this, Walter created a tremendous identity crisis in Petula, who had to fight massive fears and insecurities – demons that eventually came to haunt Walter as well.