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The best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve now turns his sights on the United States, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. From the blue-blooded pockets of old-WASP New England to the vast tribal lands of the Navajo, Bryan Sykes takes us on a historical genetic tour, interviewing genealogists, geneticists, anthropologists, and everyday The best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve now turns his sights on the United States, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. From the blue-blooded pockets of old-WASP New England to the vast tribal lands of the Navajo, Bryan Sykes takes us on a historical genetic tour, interviewing genealogists, geneticists, anthropologists, and everyday Americans with compelling ancestral stories. His findings suggest: • Of Americans whose ancestors came as slaves, virtually all have some European DNA. • Racial intermixing appears least common among descendants of early New England colonists. • There is clear evidence of Jewish genes among descendants of southwestern Spanish Catholics. • Among white Americans, evidence of African DNA is most common in the South. • European genes appeared among Native Americans as early as ten thousand years ago. An unprecedented look into America's genetic mosaic and an impressive contribution to how we perceive race, this is a fascinating book about what it means to be American.


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The best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve now turns his sights on the United States, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. From the blue-blooded pockets of old-WASP New England to the vast tribal lands of the Navajo, Bryan Sykes takes us on a historical genetic tour, interviewing genealogists, geneticists, anthropologists, and everyday The best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve now turns his sights on the United States, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. From the blue-blooded pockets of old-WASP New England to the vast tribal lands of the Navajo, Bryan Sykes takes us on a historical genetic tour, interviewing genealogists, geneticists, anthropologists, and everyday Americans with compelling ancestral stories. His findings suggest: • Of Americans whose ancestors came as slaves, virtually all have some European DNA. • Racial intermixing appears least common among descendants of early New England colonists. • There is clear evidence of Jewish genes among descendants of southwestern Spanish Catholics. • Among white Americans, evidence of African DNA is most common in the South. • European genes appeared among Native Americans as early as ten thousand years ago. An unprecedented look into America's genetic mosaic and an impressive contribution to how we perceive race, this is a fascinating book about what it means to be American.

30 review for DNA USA: A Genetic Biography of America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Book

    DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America by Bryan Sykes “DNA USA" is the ambitious but overall disappointing book about the genetic makeup of America. Bryan Sykes, author of the successful book, “The Seven Daughters of Eve and Saxons, Vikings, and Celt” and professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford and founder of Oxford Ancestors, takes the reader on a literal three-month journey through America as he collects DNA and assembles a genetic portrait. The author though engaging and makin DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America by Bryan Sykes “DNA USA" is the ambitious but overall disappointing book about the genetic makeup of America. Bryan Sykes, author of the successful book, “The Seven Daughters of Eve and Saxons, Vikings, and Celt” and professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford and founder of Oxford Ancestors, takes the reader on a literal three-month journey through America as he collects DNA and assembles a genetic portrait. The author though engaging and making the book accessible for the masses fails at reaching his ultimate goal of providing a thorough or compelling portrait of America. This 384-page book is broken out into three sections called movements. Positives: 1. An engaging, conversational prose that is accessible to the masses. 2. Effective overall format. Keep the highly technical aspects of genetics in a separate appendix thus allowing the body of the book to have a smooth narrative. 3. Does a good job of going over the basics of DNA. In particular, the differences between DNA and mDNA which is fundamental in this book. 4. A brief history of genetics and its progress. 5. A wonderful look at the history of various Native Americans populations of America. 6. A brief look at American history with a focus on the early colonies. 7. The beauty of modern genetics, unraveling ancestry. 8. Sykes does a great job of establishing what genetics can do and its limitations. 9. Many genetic misconceptions debunked, “Many people naturally think that increasing accuracy will come by increasing the number of markers tested. It will not.” 10. Some chapters are much better than others…chapter 8. The Jews and chapter 9. The Africans were among my favorites. 11. Fascinating look at genetics and diseases and the complexity of pinpointing diseases through genetics. 12. A look at slavery and its impact to America. Some mind-blowing numbers and facts. 13. A look at inheriting DNA…how it works. Enlightening. 14. DNA tests to the public…its importance. 15. A look at the Human Genome Project and its impact. 16. A look at why some populations have an understandable indignation over cooperating in genetic projects. 17. Some interesting personal stories regarding the people who provided their DNA. Even the author provides some interesting insights into his own ancestry. 18. An enlightening look at why a third of African American men carry a European Y chromosome. 19. Good use of pop culture (movies) to engage the reader. 20. Does a good job of wrapping up his overall work. 21. Interesting overall findings. 22. Links worked great. Negatives: 1. The expression “You have bitten more than you can chew” comes to mind with this book. It’s a fantastic idea for a book that came up way too short. The author recognizes early on in his travels that he wasn’t going to get all the cooperation he needed to reach all his goals. 2. The book is uneven, that is, some chapters are so much better than others. 3. Some chapters are laborious to read; even the author acknowledges that unless you are of that population group it will get tedious to get through. 4. Overall the author comes across as an engaging person you want you to sit down with but some of the comments were shall I say off putting. The comment regarding a Mexican named Jesus who left his violent hometown and implying that he didn’t have the guts to him ask a question because he just recently watched the movie; “No Country for Old Men” is uncalled for. 5. As a person with Spanish roots I was hoping to get a little more than Puerto Ricans are more susceptible to asthma than Mexicans. 6. Overall I was disappointed; I was expecting a more comprehensive genetic portrayal of America. Many parts of the country were left out. 7. No formal bibliography. In summary, I have mixed feelings about this book. The topic is fascinating, the goal too ambitious and the execution was overall disappointing. Professor Sykes deserves credit for taking on such an ambitious project but early on he knew he wasn’t going to be able to deliver the goods. He didn’t get all the cooperation he required to be able to end up with a comprehensive genetic-portrayal of America. The author also made some questionable sensitive remarks that I thought were off putting but you be the judge of that. All that being said, some of the chapters are truly fascinating and provides valuable insight. Read with reservations noted. Further suggestions: “The Universe Inside You” by Brian Clegg, “The 10,000 Year Explosion” by Gregory Cochran, “Relics of Eden” by Daniel J. Fairbanks, “Deep Ancestry” by Spencer Wells “Why Evolution Is True” by Jerry A. Coyne, “The Making of the Fittest” by Sean B. Carroll, “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin, “Before the Dawn” by Nicholas Wade “Thomas Jefferson” by Christopher Hitchens, and “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Danica

    Considering myself a geneticist, I really liked a lot of the content of this book. I worked for Relative Genetics and DNA Heritage for over 5 years. I focused on MtDNA and Y DNA tests. Therefore reading about what I have done for a living and finally understanding the beginnings of this industry was very interesting to me. However, why did I give this book only two stars? I find Bryan Sykes to belittle many of the things I hold dear in life. Being from England, especially Oxford, he puts on airs Considering myself a geneticist, I really liked a lot of the content of this book. I worked for Relative Genetics and DNA Heritage for over 5 years. I focused on MtDNA and Y DNA tests. Therefore reading about what I have done for a living and finally understanding the beginnings of this industry was very interesting to me. However, why did I give this book only two stars? I find Bryan Sykes to belittle many of the things I hold dear in life. Being from England, especially Oxford, he puts on airs many times throughout his travels. Why does he have to belittle people who have faith in God and in Adam and Eve? However, he does try to have respect for the American Indians, since so many geneticists have disrespected them in the past. Also, this book was very long. It takes him a long time to get to the point. Actually, what was the point? A history of genetic testing in the US? Another reason I rated this book so low is because I don't think it is for the average reader. Dear friends, unless you are REALLY interested in the history of genetic testing in the US, do not read this book. You will be bored out of you minds.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell

    I was hoping for better. It's not that there isn't any good content here. It's that much of this has been covered in other books I've read. Some has been explicitly covered in other books by this author. And then some of this is travelogue - as in the author travelling around the USA by train. The pieces explicitly targeting Native Americans or Africans were the better parts. The last section on the results of gene painting was basically unreadable. So read other books first. 2.5 of 5.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    First disclaimer: I'm adopted, so DNA and genetics interest me. I have considered doing DNA testing on myself for both medical and genetic ethnic background testing as DNA testing is likely the only way I will ever receive such information. Second disclaimer: while I saw the book at my local bookstore and found it interesting, I mainly put it in my queue at my local library to show my daughter how cool our library's new app is. I can barcode scan a book in the bookstore, put it in my library q First disclaimer: I'm adopted, so DNA and genetics interest me. I have considered doing DNA testing on myself for both medical and genetic ethnic background testing as DNA testing is likely the only way I will ever receive such information. Second disclaimer: while I saw the book at my local bookstore and found it interesting, I mainly put it in my queue at my local library to show my daughter how cool our library's new app is. I can barcode scan a book in the bookstore, put it in my library queue and pick the book up from the library the next day. Amazing. Disclaimers aside, DNA USA is a very uneven book. It is divided into 3 movements. The first movement covers the specific historic genetic profiles of Americans of Native Americans, Europeans and Africans. As mentioned by another reviewer, Asian Americans are "missing" most likely because their genetics would tangle with Native People's genetic profile. I could also give other reasons for not including Asian Americans -- more recent immigration being only one reason. This first movement is the lengthiest to me just when Mr. Sykes' chapters get interesting he throws in "I already covered this in my previous book X". I found this frustrating although I have considered added a couple of his other books to my TBR list. The second movement is one which he refers to as "a road trip movie". He discusses how he recruited DNA donors and his journey across the USA primarily by rail. There are some interesting stories and imagery, but there is also some strongly pretentious moments and some "I'm takin the movie thing too far". Name dropping "no country for old men" and "Bergdorf Blondes" and noticing the rail station from the Untouchables as well as believing the Italian restaurant in Chicago likely saw a mob shootout. Really? The third movement pulls it all together and really does not hold too many surprises. The New Englanders had pretty much all European ancestry. Southern whites actually had some African genetics and DNA. African Americans has generally a great deal of European ancestry as well as not insignificant Native American genetic background.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    DNA USA is absolutely fascinating, although some of the concepts are rather difficult to completely understand, at least the first time around. The author, who is a professor at Oxford University, embarks on a road trip across the United States with his son (and later, his wife) discussing the genetic origins of Americans, with some insights into American society from someone across the Atlantic. My favorite is a comment on the ongoing Affordable Health Care Act: "Most surprising to my ears was DNA USA is absolutely fascinating, although some of the concepts are rather difficult to completely understand, at least the first time around. The author, who is a professor at Oxford University, embarks on a road trip across the United States with his son (and later, his wife) discussing the genetic origins of Americans, with some insights into American society from someone across the Atlantic. My favorite is a comment on the ongoing Affordable Health Care Act: "Most surprising to my ears was the rhetorical question, "do you want the government to run your health care?", inviting the answer, "No, certainly not". Back home that is one of the things we do expect the government to do as part of running the country. Even politicians from the right know that if they were even suspected of wanting to dismantle the National Health System, were all treatment is free to those who need it, they would stand no chance of being elected". But this is no book on health care; this is a mix between a road trip book, a book on American history and how we all ended up here instead of in Europe or Africa or Asia or Polynesia, and a book on genetics. All three are fascinating. The first part of the book is a "genetics 101" where he explains the differences between mitochondrial DNA and yDNA and the importance of each in tracing your genetic origins. He discusses in some depth the Native American cultural sensitivity to genetic testing, and why he makes a conscious decision to avoid direct DNA testing of Native Americans. The second part of the book is the road trip; the author and his son set out from New England on Amtrak and go cross country with a detour in the Dakotas, and then returns to the East Coast after meeting up with his wife in California. He takes genetic samples from a cross-section of Americans- New Englanders who can trace their descent from the Mayflower; African-Americans curious about their origins, which are extremely difficult for most to trace; and he does find some Native Americans who are willing to be tested, with some interesting results. Many of his results and conclusions are surprising and startling. He tells the reader about his own genetic family tree which includes some echoes from Britain's past- Africans who came to Britain as part of the Roman Empire's forces hundreds of years ago and stayed, starting families with native Britons and becoming part of the genetic record. Some of the concepts he introduces are absolutely mind-bending, such as the idea of the "common ancestor"; someone who lived about 1900 years ago to whom everyone currently living could claim as an ancestor. 1900 years doesn't seem like that long of a time until you start multiplying your ancestors and realize that only 16 generations ago, each person has something approaching 65,000 ancestors. Reading this book made me more curious about my own ancestry; I wonder what the results would be since my family history, undoubtedly like many Americans', gets fuzzy after a few generations back. In his conclusion, the author states that "I hope you will come away with the feeling that you have glimpsed another world. A world that mocks the artificial divisions we have created for ourselves". In the divisive political environment that is America today, it's a timely perspective. If I have any complaint, it's that there is almost too much good stuff in one book to absorb in one reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Vanek

    1. Sykes never figured out what he was trying to do with this book. It is part genetic survey, part travelogue, part ego-stroking self-promotion. 2. Sykes misses most Americans. I understand the interest in Native Americans and Africa-Americans and I enjoyed some of his discussion about the role of genetic testing in their lives, but considering America's many chapters of immigration and internal migration he missed so many potential stories. 3. Whatever critical thinking skills Sykes uses within 1. Sykes never figured out what he was trying to do with this book. It is part genetic survey, part travelogue, part ego-stroking self-promotion. 2. Sykes misses most Americans. I understand the interest in Native Americans and Africa-Americans and I enjoyed some of his discussion about the role of genetic testing in their lives, but considering America's many chapters of immigration and internal migration he missed so many potential stories. 3. Whatever critical thinking skills Sykes uses within the field of genetics, he is astoundingly ignorant of critical thinking in other fields, like history. So many of his speculations about why Native Americans feel reluctant about genetic testing or why both black and white southerners often have mixed ancestries come down either to Sykes's discussions with other geneticists or to his own preconceived notions of these subjects. Historians and professional genealogists each know a great deal about how and why different populations have mixed (or not) in different parts of the United States in different times. There is a deep literature on "passing," for example. Sykes apparently has no knowledge this scholarship exists. If he does sometimes skim over something reasonably historical, he doesn't realize that this is where the interesting stories lie and this is where genetic testing can produce such fascinating results. Genealogists know this and some of the ones Sykes met clearly tried to convey this idea to him. But Sykes spends more time being amazed at their deep interest than in the fact that they might actually know something relevant to his project. 4. So much of this book is about an old white British man living out his own fantasies. Even the scientific discussions are tinged with his own mythology of America. 5. This book is repetitive. The same stories pop up over and over in just slightly different contexts. It needed another round of good editing. There are a few interesting tidbits, and the early chapter in which Sykes traces past and current thinking about the arrival of human beings in the Americas is nicely done. However, Sykes ignores far too much great material and fills in instead with too many repetitive discussions or random pseudo-literary travel narratives for DNA USA to have much lasting value.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Thielen

    Moderately educational book about a genetic study of a select group of Americans. The subject is fascinating but also complex and Mr. Sykes is not gifted with a writing style that makes the difficult clearly understood. Additionally: he is an Englishman who takes pains to say he is laboring to write a book for American readership, but then goes off topic to describe, in depth, a cross country train trip with his son in which he provides breathless detail about the U.S. than any literate American Moderately educational book about a genetic study of a select group of Americans. The subject is fascinating but also complex and Mr. Sykes is not gifted with a writing style that makes the difficult clearly understood. Additionally: he is an Englishman who takes pains to say he is laboring to write a book for American readership, but then goes off topic to describe, in depth, a cross country train trip with his son in which he provides breathless detail about the U.S. than any literate American already knows. Again, because he is not an American himself, he suffers like other non-Americans from an over-the-top reverence for Native Americans, assuming that long descriptions of the cultures and history of various tribes explain things as obscure to us as to him. Or am I just annoyed by this because I live in Indian country (South Dakota) and I have known so much of this all my life? (And I know Indians as people, not archetypes.)His earnest plan to rent a car and visit the rez at Pine Ridge, just because he has a phone number that he believes belongs to Russell Means, struck me as especially funny. (He abandons the plan because his calls to the number go unanswered.) It IS interesting to learn that there are a good number of people who are enraged to find out the truth about their family tree: white southerners who reject the scientific proof that they had an African American ancestor and African American men furious to be told that they have a white man in their family background. Sykes also details a case of a Native American whose genetic history shows his bloodline is largely European, and that he has less Native American ancestry than some people who have been cast out of tribes for family trees that are insufficiently Native. It would appear that, even at the beginning of the 21st century, many of us still aren't ready to know who our relatives were only two centuries ago.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cyndi

    By the author of the Seven Daughters of Eve. Plenty of good information but it's buried inside of a travelogue written with the skill of a starry-eyed foreigner describing his first big US trip for his holiday newsletter. The maddening part is that he met up with all sorts of movers and shakers in the genetic genealogy world but much of the time he merely mentions the meeting then moves on to the next part of the trip.

  9. 5 out of 5

    bup

    More like 3.5 stars. I liked it; it was engaging, but it seemed a little bit unfocused. I don't feel like I got a genetic portrait of America. Frequent references to his earlier The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry made me want to read that, although there's lots of interesting stuff right here. He posits through stats inferences about humankind's most recent common ancestor, as distinct from mitochondrial Eve, or Y-Adam. He talks about his travels by train acr More like 3.5 stars. I liked it; it was engaging, but it seemed a little bit unfocused. I don't feel like I got a genetic portrait of America. Frequent references to his earlier The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry made me want to read that, although there's lots of interesting stuff right here. He posits through stats inferences about humankind's most recent common ancestor, as distinct from mitochondrial Eve, or Y-Adam. He talks about his travels by train across and around the United States. He talks about clashes between geneticists, Indian tribes, and people who want to misuse genetics for evil purposes that have fouled many relationships between them. He talks about Tuskegee. He talks about how frequently people's genetics show ancestry from Asia, America, Europe and Africa. He talks about what a farce - beyond what a farce the 'one drop' rule was just on the face of it - the one drop rule would be in practice, because if you have significant southern ancestry, whether you 'identify' as black, white, whatever, it's not at all unlikely you have ancestry from Europe and Africa, and not infrequently Asia or America too. He talks about the duality of race being both a social construct and at least a somewhat valid genetic concept, but how the most obvious scientifically valid reason for caring - medical issues that affect some races more than others - oversimplify because of the mishmash of DNA. It's the race of small sections of DNA - because, yes, small sections tend to be from one ancestor or another - that should be the issue. If all that sounds interesting to you, you'll enjoy the book. But if you're like me, you won't get what is supposed to make the book cohesive.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    Did you ever wonder where America’s genetic heritage came from? I remember years ago asking a representative of an Indian organization if anyone know just what proportion of America’s ancestry Indians provided. She did not know but “DNA USA” gives us a hint at the answer to this and other questions. Author Bryan Sykes explains the science of DNA, as to how it is tested, what it can tell and some interesting facts regarding how we came to be who we are. That ground work having been laid, Sykes ta Did you ever wonder where America’s genetic heritage came from? I remember years ago asking a representative of an Indian organization if anyone know just what proportion of America’s ancestry Indians provided. She did not know but “DNA USA” gives us a hint at the answer to this and other questions. Author Bryan Sykes explains the science of DNA, as to how it is tested, what it can tell and some interesting facts regarding how we came to be who we are. That ground work having been laid, Sykes takes us through his investigations of various regional ethnic groups, including Indians, white New Englanders, white Southerners and African-Americans, testing their paternal, maternal and composite genetic maps. The author arrives at some interesting conclusions. Many people have diverse backgrounds. Many Indians find that they have more African and European DNA than Indian. Most African-Americans have some European DNA and among American whites, African DNA is most commonly found among Southerners and least often among the descendents of New England colonialists. The ultimate conclusion is that group identities are really fictions imposed on people of generally diverse genetic backgrounds. I find the topic of the book to be very interesting although at times the science gets a bit hard to follow. Sykes raises questions about the use of DNA both for possible social purposes and for medical treatment, particularly that fine tuned to presumed racial variables. If you wish to delve into this new frontier in scientific/social research “DNA USA” is a good place to start.

  11. 4 out of 5

    sara

    This started off very interesting and grew a little laborious, then painful, with the exception of the poetic description of Native lands in the West. He loses one star for going on and on for pages about Native American mistrust of DNA and the history of eugenics without ONCE mentioning that at one time Native American women were force-sterilized, often without their knowledge (when undergoing an otherwise benign procedure like an appendectomy -- or even tonsillectomy! -- for instance), as a re This started off very interesting and grew a little laborious, then painful, with the exception of the poetic description of Native lands in the West. He loses one star for going on and on for pages about Native American mistrust of DNA and the history of eugenics without ONCE mentioning that at one time Native American women were force-sterilized, often without their knowledge (when undergoing an otherwise benign procedure like an appendectomy -- or even tonsillectomy! -- for instance), as a result of eugenics boards deciding their children would be "feeble-minded". You'd be a little suspicious, too. Neither does he mention this same happening to African American women, as it did in North Carolina where LEGALIZED forced sterilization was routine between 1933 and 1973, as another reason the community are skeptical of testing their unborn babies for sickle-cell anemia. He loses another star for perpetuating the genealogy myth that everyone's name got bungled at Ellis Island. Ask Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak about that one. It may just be that genetic genealogy is more advanced than when this was written, but Bryan Sykes, a geneticist, seems to insist that siblings will more or less have the same amounts of DNA pertaining to different ethnic backgrounds -- but this is not true, according to all I have read and studied. Unless the two are twins, these amounts will, and do, vary. One child can get some Irish genes while the other doesn't -- plausible if your Irish ancestor is more than a few generations back. And so on. Just my thoughts. I do think this book is worth a read if the subject matter interests you, but be warned -- there are holes in his plot!

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Wood

    I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I thoroughly enjoyed it although it was often hard to follow the genetics and the history involved in the different groups that make up the USA. I am also not sure why the DNA paintings of the individual participants in the study were in the middle of the book when they weren't explained until later and were not really discussed in any detail until the last chapter. Also why were names of famous people used as aliases. Overall the book is well written I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I thoroughly enjoyed it although it was often hard to follow the genetics and the history involved in the different groups that make up the USA. I am also not sure why the DNA paintings of the individual participants in the study were in the middle of the book when they weren't explained until later and were not really discussed in any detail until the last chapter. Also why were names of famous people used as aliases. Overall the book is well written and not only opens up a world of DNA but also discusses the history involved and even becomes a travelogue as the author describes his travels across the country collecting the DNA samples. The main things I gained from the book is a desire to find out more about the human genome and a clearer realization that our DNA really comes from many of our ancestors not just our parents. We may identify ourselves as a specific ethnic group but in reality our DNA may hold some interesting surprises. Imagine the KKK member who finds out they have an African ancestor. Basically, our DNA makes us who we are and we are a combination of many generations of ancestors. Depending on how the DNA combines and mutates along the generations some of our ancestors DNA may eventually no longer even exist in our chromosomes. I would love to have my DNA analyzed out of scientific curiosity alone, let alone any specific useful knowledge.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Johnson

    I was very happy to receive a copy of this book through the First Reads program. Overall I would say it was a pretty okay read. Not terrible, but not something I would recommend to everyone I know. The copy I read was an ARC, so I understand there may have been changes in the final copy. I really hope one of the changes involved the flow of the book. It felt very choppy, and some things seemed out of place. Maybe a shuffling of the chapters would have helped. The road trip he took with his son i I was very happy to receive a copy of this book through the First Reads program. Overall I would say it was a pretty okay read. Not terrible, but not something I would recommend to everyone I know. The copy I read was an ARC, so I understand there may have been changes in the final copy. I really hope one of the changes involved the flow of the book. It felt very choppy, and some things seemed out of place. Maybe a shuffling of the chapters would have helped. The road trip he took with his son in the second half of the book was a strange, out of place section that didn't follow the feel of the rest of the book at all. Most of the many pictures included would do well in a private family vacation photo album, not a science book. As for the positives, you could really feel the author's energy and passion and the intense knowledge he has of DNA. He is an engaging writer and presents difficult topics in an easy to understand way. I definitely want to read more on the topic, and maybe even get my own DNA tested one day.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    A very readable book, and fascinating. while there is plenty of DNA, Sykes goes further, and adds a lot of comment on history, the 1st part treating the "older world" and Europe in particular with its migrations, Then does, in what he clearly is not a "scientific sample", a trip to the USA, and gets a background of people and then does a "DNA painting" of the selection he did the tests on. So while it is clearly a scientific book, it goes further and give a good "cultural" angle to the various d A very readable book, and fascinating. while there is plenty of DNA, Sykes goes further, and adds a lot of comment on history, the 1st part treating the "older world" and Europe in particular with its migrations, Then does, in what he clearly is not a "scientific sample", a trip to the USA, and gets a background of people and then does a "DNA painting" of the selection he did the tests on. So while it is clearly a scientific book, it goes further and give a good "cultural" angle to the various different people that now co-exist in the USA. Some may complain that this is not strict science, but that would have taken a huge amount richness out of the book. I found his documentation of remarks by some, for example the Afro-American woman, proud of her curly black hair, not wanting to straighten it out due to pressure to resemble whites excellent, and most appropriate.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I won't repeat what some others here have written so eloquently. I gave the book 3 stars because it vacillated between one and five throughout the book. There was some great info... there was some awful info. I got an overall impression of "smug" from the author, but am about to read a couple of his other books to see if they are better. Where the book was good... it was great!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Interesting: The author follows lines of DNA that I would never think of, which still are interesting. Read it in the bookstore, which means I'd like to reread it at some point a little more carefully. All sorts of interesting facts and trivia about our diverse "melting pot" nation. Enjoyed his other works, too.

  17. 5 out of 5

    uosɯɐS

    My first book on genetics - I had just watched the National Geographic documentary "Human Family Tree" when I saw a fellow Goodreads member had rated this title, and it looked interesting. It was!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Embry

    As the United States moves toward a society in which those who identify as white are fast losing their majority statues and with a biracial American grafted onto the British royal family, Bryan Sykes’ DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America seems increasingly relevant. But the Oxford geneticist who pioneered the use of human DNA to explore the history of the British Isles doesn’t aim to map America’s ancestral heritage. “The sheer size of the country and the magnitude of the population rules out As the United States moves toward a society in which those who identify as white are fast losing their majority statues and with a biracial American grafted onto the British royal family, Bryan Sykes’ DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America seems increasingly relevant. But the Oxford geneticist who pioneered the use of human DNA to explore the history of the British Isles doesn’t aim to map America’s ancestral heritage. “The sheer size of the country and the magnitude of the population rules out any kind of systematic survey,” he writes. “I had to be selective or be overwhelmed.” To that end, Sykes offers an anecdotal, often surprising glimpse at our multiple continents of origin and the often-surprising results of sampling the genetic traces they left on America’s people. Sykes provides brief overviews of the several ways of tracing genetic heritage – mitochondrial DNA inherited only through a person’s maternal line, Y-chromosome DNA inherited only by males through their paternal ancestors, and autosomic DNA combined and recombined from both parents, as well as how these results match – or sometimes don’t – genealogical records. Beginning with a look at the roots of America’s first people, and their understandably wary attitude toward the claims of outsiders, Sykes moves on to the genetic contributions of Europe and Africa. Unlike Native Americans, those who identify with European or African ancestors are generally eager to find their roots outside America. Compared to those who have inhabited the our continent for tens of millennia, perhaps even from the beginning of time, we know ourselves to be newcomers to the Americas, whether our ancestors arrived here centuries ago or the day before yesterday. Non-indigenous Americans look across the sea as well as at the ground under our feet for a sense of permanence and belonging. And we’re sometimes surprised, even shocked, to learn where that search for belonging leads us. There’s the not-infrequent situation of men who “look black and certainly feel black” confronted with evidence that their Y chromosome shows evidence of European ancestry, as is the case for approximately one-third of African-American males. As well as the case of the man who insisted he was of wholly European ancestry, only to find that the mitochondrial DNA inherited from his mother’s family had its origins in Africa. (In that last case, Sykes wonders why he wanted to have his DNA analyzed by a company named African Ancestors in the first place.) Perhaps more surprising was the finding that the Y-chromosome associated with the Jewish families often surnamed Cohen in fact dates to the approximate time of their Biblical ancestor, Aaron, brother of the prophet Moses. Sykes adds the caution that, drawn from the pool of Y-chromosomes circulating in the Middle East several thousand years ago, possession of the supposedly “Jewish” chromosome does not prove that the bearer actually is Jewish, much less a descendent of Aaron. However, its existence among American Hispanics who have family traditions that their ancestors were “conversos”—medieval Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Christianity—has led some to explore Judaism, and even re-convert to what they believe to be the faith of their fathers. On the other hand, using Y-chromosome lineage to unmake the founder of the huge clan of Scottish McDonalds as a Viking interloper instead of a Celt has been largely taken in stride by the clan’s historians. If he kept them safe from other Vikings, he’s Scottish enough for them. Not all DNA evidence is surprising. A number of New Englanders who volunteered their DNA for Sykes’ perusal were more blue-blooded than the Englishman, whose genes bear surprising traces of both African and Asian ancestry. (Literally “blue-blooded,” according to a method of designating individual gene origins as blue for European, green for African and orange for Asiatic, in the fascinating “chromosome portraits” included in DNA USA.) Although Sykes conceals the identify of most of his volunteer donors under pseudonyms, the 2012 publication date of DNA USA means it doesn’t reflect the most recent privacy concerns about the use of human genetics. (Sykes is also the founder and chairman of ancestry tracer Oxford Ancestors.) The methods used to identify DNA origins by continental origin are based on genetic material provided by limited numbers of samples, with the Asian component which Sykes uses as a stand-in for Native American, comes only from volunteer donors in China and Japan. Perhaps less a scientific document than memoir and travelogue (Sykes makes me long to replicate his transcontinental train journey across the United States) the mix of individual anecdotes, scientific information and sources for further reading make DNA USA a fascinating account of people grappling with their distant origins.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Not what was advertised This book was a disappointment after some of Sykes' previous work. This was much more of a travelogue and ode to the Native American than any sort of genetic research. The genetics discussed are limited to 25 individuals, one of whom is the author who is not even American. Sykes purposefully stays away from anything that could cause conflict so does no genetic sampling from Native Americans, even though about half the book talks about their history, or from African America Not what was advertised This book was a disappointment after some of Sykes' previous work. This was much more of a travelogue and ode to the Native American than any sort of genetic research. The genetics discussed are limited to 25 individuals, one of whom is the author who is not even American. Sykes purposefully stays away from anything that could cause conflict so does no genetic sampling from Native Americans, even though about half the book talks about their history, or from African Americans from the deep south, except for two women from Atlanta who he meets while touring the southwest this conveniently saving him a trip to Atlanta. Otherwise his non-European American samples come from people in the genetics research community or in the talk show industry. Read one of his other books and skip this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Colette

    Audiobook. This book was had to rate because some parts were so interesting I would give it 5 stars, and then other parts dragged and were completely off-topic. Overall, I enjoyed it, however listening to American history from the eyes of a British man was sometimes annoying. Also, coming to it from the perspective of a professional genealogist also has its challenges. I don't know too much about genealogical DNA testing, and this book came out quite awhile ago (in terms of genetics research), s Audiobook. This book was had to rate because some parts were so interesting I would give it 5 stars, and then other parts dragged and were completely off-topic. Overall, I enjoyed it, however listening to American history from the eyes of a British man was sometimes annoying. Also, coming to it from the perspective of a professional genealogist also has its challenges. I don't know too much about genealogical DNA testing, and this book came out quite awhile ago (in terms of genetics research), so I'd really like to know what has gone on in the field over the last 7 years. This was an interesting jumping-off point, and I really didn't mind the rambling too much, since I was stuck driving in the car anyway. I will have to look at the chromosome paintings in a hard copy at the library.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Susie Besecker

    Intriguing text delving into what it might really mean to be "categorized" as American. Interesting facts and truths about Native Americans and why they, as a group of nations, are against DNA testing of their populations. Also notes how much alike we all are at a genetic level, literally and figuratively - especially African Americans and European Americans - a truth supported by the science showing a rather un-lopsided/equal sharing of DNA across ethnicities whether you believe it or not. In t Intriguing text delving into what it might really mean to be "categorized" as American. Interesting facts and truths about Native Americans and why they, as a group of nations, are against DNA testing of their populations. Also notes how much alike we all are at a genetic level, literally and figuratively - especially African Americans and European Americans - a truth supported by the science showing a rather un-lopsided/equal sharing of DNA across ethnicities whether you believe it or not. In the end, we are all simply humans who should need no man-made categorization of what makes us different or alike. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all just BE?

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Hunsicker

    Bryan Sykes tends to recycle a lot of his material. Each of the books references the previous ones. So if you were to pick one of his books to get a summary of all his important works, I would recommend this one. And if after reading this you want to learn more about his other research you could always go back and read those. But the Readers' Digest version of those books can be found here along with interesting new anecdotes about genetics in the United States and why our genetic melting pot lo Bryan Sykes tends to recycle a lot of his material. Each of the books references the previous ones. So if you were to pick one of his books to get a summary of all his important works, I would recommend this one. And if after reading this you want to learn more about his other research you could always go back and read those. But the Readers' Digest version of those books can be found here along with interesting new anecdotes about genetics in the United States and why our genetic melting pot looks the way it does.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pat Beard

    Really enjoyed this book. The author is a talented writer with a wry wit that shows through on occasion. Book starts with a very good explanation of the basics of genetic testing and what it can and cannot mean and show and some of the background of the field of genetics. That was the best part of the book. I just didn't find the genetic portraitures that made up the last part of the work nearly as captivating. I wasn't surprised by any of the findings there.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Interesting DNA travelogue. Brian Sykes travels across the US doing DNA tests and interjecting interesting bits of DNA research history from other places. In particular I enjoyed a side story (I am sure chronicled in his other books) about Somerled, a historic Celtic hero and his genetic influence on the Scottish clans (and the fact that the same Y chromosome suggests that the clan leaders strayed with non clan women).

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

    Rambling There was too much personal and travel.information for a book that was supposed to be about genetics. It rambles on a lot and didn't seem to have much cohesion. Disappointing compared to the other works by this author which I have read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Awjtf

    very interesting book!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Gazarek

    Great book, but not what I was expecting. It wasn't nearly as entertaining as "Saxons, Vikings, and Celts."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Jares

    This book title promises more than it could possibly offer. I knew I would be disappointed if Bryan Sykes didn't talk about each of the genetic groups in America. However, he did something quite interesting. Sykes offered a lengthy explanation of the historically under-reported genetic groups in our country. Specifically, they are the American Indians and African -Americans. To a lesser extent, the author discussed differences between the varieties of Latino and Hispanic peoples. The book's title This book title promises more than it could possibly offer. I knew I would be disappointed if Bryan Sykes didn't talk about each of the genetic groups in America. However, he did something quite interesting. Sykes offered a lengthy explanation of the historically under-reported genetic groups in our country. Specifically, they are the American Indians and African -Americans. To a lesser extent, the author discussed differences between the varieties of Latino and Hispanic peoples. The book's title sounds as dry as the Gobi Desert; however, the author is a master of bringing the esoteric subject of genetics to life for the reader. Here are a few of the fascinating things I learned from this book. Current inhabitants of the Eastern Seaboard are fully European; they do not carry any African or Asian genes. However, many Southern Americans have mixed ancestry with African genes. American Indians have been resistant to genetic testing because the results undermine their rich stories of their tribe's beginnings. Sykes shows that there is a place for genetic testing (to study the genes for alcoholism and diabetes {which are rampant in Indian tribes}, but not to tamper with Indian traditions and beliefs. Different ethnic groups have embraced genetic testing in different ways. The Ashkenazi Jews were quick to accept genetic testing to avoid the terrible disease of Tay-Sachs in their newborns. Sykes suggests that that same testing could be a way for African-Americans to control and eradicate the sickle-cell disease in their young. The incidence of this disease is incredibly high: one in 500 black US children are born with this disorder. At the end of this book, I felt I'd learned so much but felt that there was much more to this engrossing subject. I've read all of his past books and am glad to add this volume to my bookshelf.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Demer

    I found this book fascinating on several levels as I have a couple of his previous books. Part travelogue and history, Sykes travels throughout the US, looking at the genetic backgrounds of some of the members of the population. He meets with and talks to Native Americans (and those who think they are), New Englanders with long pedigrees, some African Americans, and others. The areas I found most interesting were: some studies indicating that Native Americans were here earlier than most scientis I found this book fascinating on several levels as I have a couple of his previous books. Part travelogue and history, Sykes travels throughout the US, looking at the genetic backgrounds of some of the members of the population. He meets with and talks to Native Americans (and those who think they are), New Englanders with long pedigrees, some African Americans, and others. The areas I found most interesting were: some studies indicating that Native Americans were here earlier than most scientists believe; many new Englanders with deep roots have 100% or very nearly 100% European ancestry; frequently those who claim to have significant Native American "blood" are almost all European genetically, although this was not true of some tribes native to the southwest; unsurprisingly, many African Americans are very noticeably mixed with European genes and Asian (Native American) as well. I was fascinated by the "chromosome portraits" and the vast amount of information that can be determined from them. It is actually possible to look at the sources of a particular gene (i.e. European, African or Asian) of a person's genome and the medical applications for the near future are significant. For example, genes coding for a certain enzyme may result in enzymes that are more efficient in metabolizing a drug. Therefore doctors would prescribe a higher doses than for a person whose enzyme is slower to remove the drug from the body. Given some of these chromosome portraits, the source(s) of this pair of genes may NOT be what would be assumed given the "color" or race identification of the owner! When doctors can visualize the source of the particular genes involved, they can prescribe to specifically meet the needs of the patient. Another example would be a white person who, because of a small amount of African DNA, could be a carrier of sickle cell anemia, a possibility that would be overlooked by simply judging from his skin color. I found the part on the surname project rather tedious, and less comprehensible than most of the book. Also, it didn't really seem to fit in with the rest of the book. Overall, I highly recommend this book to those with some background in genetics and an interest in learning more!

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

    Even better than Dr. Sykes' very good The Seven Daughters of Eve - taking full advantage of advances in DNA analysis in the years between the two books, he traveled across the United States, using DNA samples collected from volunteers to study the three main population migrations that settled the New World, i.e. from Asia, Europe, and Africa (most of the latter involuntarily, brought to this hemisphere as slaves.) Among other advances, Dr. Sykes was able to trace not only the matrilineal descent Even better than Dr. Sykes' very good The Seven Daughters of Eve - taking full advantage of advances in DNA analysis in the years between the two books, he traveled across the United States, using DNA samples collected from volunteers to study the three main population migrations that settled the New World, i.e. from Asia, Europe, and Africa (most of the latter involuntarily, brought to this hemisphere as slaves.) Among other advances, Dr. Sykes was able to trace not only the matrilineal descent of his subjects using mitochondrial DNA (we all inherit our mitochondrial DNA exclusively from our mothers because of the way conception occurs), but also to do the same with patrilineal descent of male subjects using their Y chromosomes. As with Seven Daughters, he paints articulate word portraits of the peoples whose lives down through the ages he studied - in other hands this might have been less than dynamic reading, but he pays great attention to the universal challenges and goals of people everywhere and in all times and the varied ways we've all tried to overcome those challenges and achieve those goals for ourselves and our families. He further wove in a travelogue describing his cross-country trip mainly by train (it's a great way to travel, as my wife and I learned on one vacation) with his son. Finally, his examination of the troubled history of DNA research with some Native American nations is thoughtful - it reminded me of Jared Diamond at his best. A further follow-up for anyone interested enough to make the investment could be to participate in the Geno 2.0 research project currently (2013-2014) being carried out by the National Geographic Society - participants can get a genetic history of their own DNA more detailed than would have been possible until recently, even including information about whether they have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA(the recently-discovered Denisovans were another early human people apparently similar to the Neanderthals but living farther east in Asia)and if so, how much. My wife is already talking about getting an "I Married a Neanderthal" T-shirt.

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