DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America

DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America

3.3 6
by Bryan Sykes
     
 

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Crisscrossing the continent, a renowned geneticist provides a groundbreaking examination of America through its DNA.
Bryan Sykes, one of the world’s leading geneticists and best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve, sets his sights on America, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. Sykes embarks on a road trip—DNA

Overview

Crisscrossing the continent, a renowned geneticist provides a groundbreaking examination of America through its DNA.
Bryan Sykes, one of the world’s leading geneticists and best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve, sets his sights on America, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. Sykes embarks on a road trip—DNA testing kit in tow—interviewing genealogists, anthropologists, and everyday Americans, tracing America’s history along a double helix that stretches from the last Ice Age to the present day. What emerges is an unprecedented look into America’s genetic mosaic that challenges the very notion of how we perceive race and what it means to be an American.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“Starred review. Human genetics energetically elucidated, entertaining travel writing, the fascinating personal stories of DNA volunteers, and Sykes’ candid musings on his awakening to the complex emotional and social implications of hidden biological inheritances make for a milestone book guaranteed to ignite spirited discussion.”— Donna Seaman
ScienceNews
“As the author of The Seven Daughters of Eve and other books, Sykes is an old hand at writing about genetics for the general public. His experience shows as he deftly introduces highly technical information in reader-friendly ways… During his journey, Sykes encounters people who embrace DNA testing as a way to clear up messy genealogical records. He also meets skeptics, who see the technology as a way to discredit their cultural heritage. Sykes doesn’t shy away from these criticisms, presenting a well-balanced view of the disparate attitudes.”— Tina Hesman Saey
New York Times Book Review
“It may seem odd for the author of a book on human genetics and heredity to thank his travel agent in the acknowledgments, but in the case of this hybrid work of science and cross-country reportage it’s a fitting gesture… Sykes writes lucidly, creating his own unique mixture in a book that might be described as Travels With Charley meets The Double Helix.”— Abigail Meisel
Abigail Meisel - New York Times Book Review
“It may seem odd for the author of a book on human genetics and heredity to thank his travel agent in the acknowledgments, but in the case of this hybrid work of science and cross-country reportage it’s a fitting gesture… Sykes writes lucidly, creating his own unique mixture in a book that might be described as Travels With Charley meets The Double Helix.”
Tina Hesman Saey - ScienceNews
“As the author of The Seven Daughters of Eve and other books, Sykes is an old hand at writing about genetics for the general public. His experience shows as he deftly introduces highly technical information in reader-friendly ways… During his journey, Sykes encounters people who embrace DNA testing as a way to clear up messy genealogical records. He also meets skeptics, who see the technology as a way to discredit their cultural heritage. Sykes doesn’t shy away from these criticisms, presenting a well-balanced view of the disparate attitudes.”
Donna Seaman - Booklist
“Starred review. Human genetics energetically elucidated, entertaining travel writing, the fascinating personal stories of DNA volunteers, and Sykes’ candid musings on his awakening to the complex emotional and social implications of hidden biological inheritances make for a milestone book guaranteed to ignite spirited discussion.”
New York Times Book Review - Abigail Meisel
“It may seem odd for the author of a book on human genetics and heredity to thank his travel agent in the acknowledgments, but in the case of this hybrid work of science and cross-country reportage it’s a fitting gesture… Sykes writes lucidly, creating his own unique mixture in a book that might be described as Travels With Charley meets The Double Helix.”
ScienceNews - Tina Hesman Saey
“As the author of The Seven Daughters of Eve and other books, Sykes is an old hand at writing about genetics for the general public. His experience shows as he deftly introduces highly technical information in reader-friendly ways… During his journey, Sykes encounters people who embrace DNA testing as a way to clear up messy genealogical records. He also meets skeptics, who see the technology as a way to discredit their cultural heritage. Sykes doesn’t shy away from these criticisms, presenting a well-balanced view of the disparate attitudes.”
Booklist - Donna Seaman
“Starred review. Human genetics energetically elucidated, entertaining travel writing, the fascinating personal stories of DNA volunteers, and Sykes’ candid musings on his awakening to the complex emotional and social implications of hidden biological inheritances make for a milestone book guaranteed to ignite spirited discussion.”
The New York Times Book Review
Some of his early chapters may have readers running for their Bio 101 textbooks, especially when he's explicating mitochondrial DNA and maternal lineage. But for the most part Sykes writes lucidly, creating his own unique mixture in a book that might be described as Travels With Charley meets The Double Helix.
—Abigail Meisel
Publishers Weekly
America’s gorgeous mosaic emerges from its DNA in this fascinating if sometimes muddled treatise on genetics and genealogy. Oxford geneticist Sykes (The Seven Daughters of Eve) traveled across the United States collecting DNA samples, recording family histories, and gazing out the window of his train car. (His evocative landscapes are one of the book’s chief pleasures.) The resulting “chromosomal portraits,” painted by analyzing markers that correlate with African, European, or Asian–Native American populations, reveal DNA tell-tales of unsuspected centuries-old migrations and mixings: Mexican-American Catholics descended from Spanish Jews; white Southerners with substantial African-American ancestry; possible journeys from Europe to North America 10,000 years ago. Sykes gives lucid, entertaining explanations of new genetic techniques and their startling success at tracing familial ties across continents and millennia. But he often flounders in contradictory interpretations as he veers between deploring artificial ethnic categories and subtly endorsing them (“My pancreas functions on a combination of both African and European genes”)—his genetic testing company, Oxford Ancestors, helps British customers peg their forefathers as Viking, Saxon, or Celt. Still, Sykes’s history of hidden kinships and epic wanderings captures the imagination. Photos. Agent: Luigi Bonomi, Bonomi Associates (U.K.). (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Sykes (Human Genetics/Oxford Univ.; Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland, 2006, etc.) combines history, science, travel and memoir in one grand exposition of what it means to be an "American." America, writes the author, is "where the genes of three great continents converge." Initially, it was Asian forebears that peopled the new world. Through analysis of mitochondrial DNA, the origins of Native Americans can be traced to three mother clusters arriving from Siberia and a fourth from Polynesia. The arrival dates, based on mitochondrial DNA mutation rates, establish a range of about 16,000 to 20,000 years ago. Unfortunately, high-handed methods toward Native tribes have created a rift that persists today, for what the scientists were doing was destroying beliefs that these natives have existed here forever. Not so for Americans of European or African descent. They know they came from elsewhere and are eager for all the details, as witness the thriving genealogy industry. Geneticists can use mitochondrial DNA as well as y-chromosome analysis, along with the latest DNA chip technologies, including "chromosomal painting." The latter allows experts to pinpoint selected blocks of genes on individual chromosomes that reflect a European, Asian or African ancestor. Traveling cross-country by train and car with his son and back again with a female assistant, Sykes gathered saliva samples for painting analysis. In a graceful text, the author delivers rich images of the American landscape, conversations with strangers, and historic asides on the waves of immigration, the Indian diasporas and the various federal laws that shaped the movements of people across the continent. In the end, Sykes provides the revelations of those salivary analyses: For the most part we are a motley crew, so much so as to give the lie to any idea that there are pure races or ethnicities. For that reason alone, the book should be celebrated. But Sykes should also be applauded for his skills as a storyteller, science expositor, travel companion and compassionate human being.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871403582
Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
05/06/2013
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
285,650
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, pioneered the use of DNA in exploring the human past. He is also the founder and chairman of Oxford Ancestors (oxfordancestors.com), which helps individuals explore their genetic roots using DNA. He is the author of Saxons, Vikings, and Celts; The Seven Daughters of Eve, a New York Times bestseller; and Adam’s Curse.

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DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
agripix More than 1 year ago
Several years ago, I started reading Bryan Sykes' books - his "Seven Daughters ..." being the first book I added to my library. I have always found Sykes' writing to be very informative and enjoyable - crafted with the lay person in mind. Although you are always aware that underpinning the chapters he has a much deeper knowledge and experience, Sykes has the happy knack of creating a friendly 'fireside chat' atmosphere as you eagerly turn the pages. This book is part travelog (the East to West journey across the US) and part DNA research and discussion - both matters blended seamlessly I might add. I am an amateur genealogist, 'wanna-be' paleoanthropologist, and DNA 'gene-ealogist' (having taken every test available through FTDNA to bolster but not replace my paper research), and I have a small but rapidly growing library of books on these related subjects. I'm happy to have added this book to my shelves, and I am confident those with similar interests will feel the same. Recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kinkeeper More than 1 year ago
Good, but not up to the standard set my his first 3 books which were terrific. More of a rambling travelogue than an informative picture of American diversity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was a disappointment. The beginning and end effectively deal with genetics but the rest of the book is a rambling recollection of the author's trips to the United States. Most shockingly, however, is that he concludes that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemings based upon DNA analysis when an analysis based upon any fundamental genealogical proof standard would never make such a conclusion. Message to author: Stick to your DNA work and leave genealogical analysis to the genealogists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The genetics of this undoubtedly is valid and informative. However, Sykes would have done well to have an archaeologist and possibly also historian as collaborators, for it is clear that he is largely ignorant of these subjects in North America. The writing style is infuriatingly patronizing. I will finish reading it for the rather low percent of the content that actually is about the genetics, which is why I bought it, and put up with filtering that from the simplistic and amateurishly written exposition of the cultural and historical context of the genetic studies.