Octavia Butler's novel Kindred is titled this because the protagonist, Dana, learns about her family history—in other words, who her kin were—throughout the novel.
One day in 1976, Dana is inexplicably and suddenly pulled into the past. She is an African American woman and lands on a plantation in the antebellum South. Of course, because of the historical context, the people assume she is a slave, so she is forced to work on the plantation. Dana travels back and forth between the 1970s and the antebellum period and, on her journeys, comes to a greater, fuller understanding of her ancestry. Namely, she learns that plantation owner Rufus is a paternal relative of hers and that he raped the slave woman Alice, who is Dana's maternal relative. Dana must come to terms with this complex family history, especially in light of her own marriage in present-day California to a white man named Kevin.
Kindred focuses on Dana's gradual discoveries about her kin and her attempts to deal with this new information about her family's origins.
The novel is about ancestors, who are called kindred.
The word “kindred” refers to those of one’s own kind, or one’s relatives. The book involves time travel back to Dana’s family. The people she comes into contact with are her ancestors. Therefore, they are all basically in it together even though they are from different time periods.
Well, maybe, if I wasn’t completely out of my mind...if the child before me was real and telling the truth, he might be one of my ancestors.
As Dana travels back in time again and again, she meets several of her ancestors. She is in fact related to Rufus. She has seen his name in her family Bible, along with Alice. She knows that Alice is one of her ancestors, but she thinks she is a slave. At first she does not see how a free black woman could be married to Rufus and one of her relatives. She later finds out and comes to know and understand her relatives more than she could any other way.