We are all of mixed heritage, of course, but Los Angeles Times projects reporter Joe Mozingo might know this better than most. He had been curious for years about his peculiar last name, which most people assumed to be Italian.

But while on assignment in Haiti, Mozingo met people who told him, with confidence, that the name is African. In a remarkable endeavor of diligent and meticulous research (which resulted in a three-part series for the Times, and, eventually, this book), Mozingo traces all American Mozingos to one common ancestor: Edward Mozingo, who came here as a slave in the 1600s.

Along the way, Joe Mozingo attends family reunions and knocks on doors in remote towns in Virginia and North Carolina, pores over courthouse documents and old diaries, walks riverbanks and dusty roads, tries hard to imagine Edward walking those same paths.

He meets white Mozingos and black Mozingos and racist Mozingos and fluidly multi-racial Mozingos and, finally, heads to Africa.

This is a fascinating, highly detailed book, which raises difficult questions about ancestry, identity and race. As Mozingo lies awake one night in Angola, he thinks, "Occasionally when I signed my name ... or watched Blake run around the T-ball field with it emblazoned on his uniform, it staggered me to think that those three syllables came out of the jungles and savannahs so many centuries ago." When you read this amazing book, it will stagger you, too