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Growing up in Richmond, Va., I attended school with a guy who had the same last name as mine. I’m white, he’s black. We joked about being cousins, but I didn’t want to examine the possible realities of that connection because of what it would indicate about our families: Oh great! My ancestors participated in a brutal system of oppression in America through the 19th century! Now let’s see if there’s a coat of arms somewhere showing that we committed rape and murder on the Crusades as well! African-American novelist Thulani Davis, however, directly addresses the interracial connections in her family in My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freewoman Discovers her Roots. Weaving memory, genealogy, and the social history of the South during Reconstruction, Davis examines the forces that brought together her great-grandparents—Chloe Tarrant Curry, a former slave from Alabama, and William Argyle Campbell, the youngest son of a Mississippi planter family. Davis’ investigation was sparked by an antique photo album that she inherited from her grandmother, Georgia Campbell Neal, who herself is pictured in the book as a young girl dressed in Scotch plaid. Others in the album—both black and white—became more vivid to Davis as entities that informed her existence. She discovered, for example, that several of her white female Campbell relatives were themselves writers of novels, poetry, and fiery letters to the editor. By examining family on both sides of the racial divide, Davis urges other Americans to consider their connections as relatives and citizens. “It may take a recognition that some of the unnamed actors of American history…are our kinsfolk,” she writes. “Where compassion has failed, perhaps history can help.” Davis reads at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Hetty Lipscomb)