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“The fifties in Piedmont was a sepia time, or at least that’s the color my memory has given it,” writes Harvard professor (and voguish intellectual) Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Colored People, a memoir of his West Virginia childhood. Gates chronicles this bygone place—a world of “segregated peace”—in warm, comic, and regretful detail. What could be better, Gates asks, than watching mom straighten “bad” hair with hot irons, grease, and potato-and-lye concoctions; drinking Uncle Nemo’s famous homemade root beer at the family reunion; or playing doctor with Gloria behind grandma’s house? Gates reads at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 364-1919. (David Plotz)