Lonny Baum is a thirty years old white novelist in New York City. He dreams of one day expressing his political sentiment in a novel that will tell the truth about the racism that he believes lies in the heart of America. Lonny is working the night shift as a proofreader at a corporate law firm: his days are a ceaseless battle against fatigue. His relationship with his girlfriend Daphne has grown estranged and passionless. His friends and family think he's mid way through his novel, though he has yet to write a word. One day he meets Denise Shepard, a beautiful seventeen year old black high school senior, studying for her college entrance exams in Central Park. They become friends. Out of the kindness of his heart, Lonny offers to tutor her for free.