Connected through slavery, a Black woman and a White woman discover their past—and each other
What happens when a White woman, Phoebe, contacts a Black woman, Betty, saying she suspects they are connected through slavery? First surprise? Betty responds, “Hello, Cousin.”
Betty had fought for an education and won. She broke through the concrete ceiling in the workplace and succeeded. A documentary of her life was about to debut.
Without thinking, she invites Phoebe to a family dinner and the premiere of the documentary. Second surprise? She forgot to tell her family who was coming to dinner.
Betty finds an activist partner in Phoebe. Cousins indeed, they commit to a path of reconciliation.
In alternating chapters, each tells her dramatic story—from Betty’s experience as one of the first Black children to attend her desegregated school, to Phoebe's eventual question to Betty: “How do I begin to repair the harms?”
Piercingly honest. Includes a working reparations project which the two women conceived together.
Betty and Phoebe have been interviewed on the BBC and were recently featured in a special on Netflix.
Praise For Cousins: Connected through slavery, a Black woman and a White woman discover their past—and each other…
"I'm very excited about this remarkable book. I hope the experiences of Betty and Phoebe will inspire others to sit down at the table of sisterhood and brotherhood to promote racial healing." —Tim Kaine, U.S. Senator from Virginia
"A compelling read! “With truth, reparations, racial healing, and reimagining public safety initiatives proliferating in hundreds of municipalities throughout the country at historic levels today, Cousins is a story that could not be more timely." —Fania E. Davis, Social Justice activist, Civil Rights attorney, Restorative Justice leader
"I LOVED Cousins. A must-read for everyone committed to racial healing and justice. "Betty’s and Phoebe’s lives couldn’t be more different, growing up. Yet once they found each other, they committed to healing and repair." A powerful book!" —Thomas Norman DeWolf, author of Inheriting the Trade and Co-Manager of Coming to the Table
"This powerful book weaves together the eloquent stories of two impressive women—stories of survival, determination, and awakening, of honesty, spirituality, and success. They give us a detective story and a mystery, a reconciliation and a celebration. A reader will be grateful for all of them." —Edward L. Ayers, Recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama
"Cousins is a wonderful book! I was charmed by the story of these two amazing women. Stunningly rich with hometown history. [...] A marvelous blueprint for anyone seeking to mend the past and redefine family." —Danita Rountree Green, trauma healing facilitator and playwright
"This very engaging book tells the courageous journey of these cousins—one Black and one White—to discover and overcome their connected pasts. [...]Their story offers inspiration for others to undertake their own journeys. Highly recommended." —Howard Zehr, pioneer in Restorative Justice movement, author of Changing Lenses and The Little Book of Restorative Justice
"Cousins is a riveting story, highlighting the possibility of healing. The openness and vulnerability with which Betty and Phoebe share their stories capture you. [...] The journey they invite us on is a story that everyone needs to read." —Jodie Geddes, Co-Manager of Coming to the Table and Co-Author of The Little Book of Racial Healing
"A completely unpredictable roller coaster of a book that will break your heart, make you enraged, teach you about dialogue, and ultimately deepen your belief in the potential of racial reconciliation." —Dr. David Wiley Campt, Principal of The Dialogue Company and Creator of The White Ally Toolkit
"A two-woman, racial reconciliation juggernaut." —Baltimore Sun
Walnut Street Books, 9781947597426, 244pp.
Publication Date: April 20, 2021
About the Author
Phoebe Kilby, a descendant of enslavers, was inspired by the "Coming to the Table" movement to connect with descendants of persons her family enslaved. She is trained in environmental management and in conflict transformation.