Kindred tells readers the story of how Dana's unique ability to travel backward in time allowed her to guarantee her own future existence. When Kindred begins, readers are introduced to Dana, who has just somehow had her arm crushed by a wall that her arm seems to have existed inside of. Over the course of the rest of the book, we learn just how that happened to her arm, and it is a direct result of her time traveling back in time to make sure Rufus and Alice survive long enough to conceive Hagar.
Dana quickly learns that her time-traveling ability is not under her conscious control. Dana is taken back to the 1800s every time Rufus Weylin's life is in danger. It turns out that Rufus is Dana's ancestor. Dana knew that she had a distant ancestor named Rufus, but she didn't know that Rufus was a white man and a complete jerk.
As Dana gets to know Rufus, she realizes that he has his sexual desires fixed upon Alice. Dana figures out that the Alice that Rufus has eyes for is also her ancestor. Unfortunately, Alice wants nothing to do with Rufus, so Dana is forced to convince Alice to have sex with Rufus in order to give birth to Hagar. Hagar's line leads to Dana; therefore, Dana must make sure that Rufus and Alice conceive a child to guarantee her own future existence.