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Most of us grow up knowing who we are and where we come from. Lisa Alther’s mother hailed from New York, her father from Virginia. One day a babysitter told Lisa about the Melungeons: six-fingered child-snatchers who hid in caves. Forgetting about these creepy kidnappers until she had a daughter of her own, Lisa learned they were actually an isolated group of dark-skinned people-often with extra thumbs-living in East Tennessee. But who were they? Descendants of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony? Kin of shipwrecked Portuguese or Turkish sailors? Or were they the children of frontiersman, or displaced Native Americans? Part sidesplitting travelogue, part how (and how not) to climb your family tree, Alther’s Kinfolks casts light on a little-known part of America’s contentious racial history; it shimmers with wicked humor, dazzles with wit, and demonstrates just how wacky and wonderful our human family truly is.

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