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DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America [Hardcover]

by Bryan Sykes
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 14, 2012 0871404125 978-0871404121 1

Crisscrossing the continent, a renowned geneticist provides a groundbreaking examination of America through its DNA.

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 how we perceive race, DNA USA challenges the very notion of what we think it means to be American. 8 pages of color illustrations; 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations

Frequently Bought Together

DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America + Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland + The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
Price for all three: $47.42

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


“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 - Booklist)

“Starred review. Sykes combines history, science, travel and memoir in one grand exposition of what it means to be an “American.” 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. ...Sykes should also be applauded for his skills as a storyteller, science expositor, travel companion and compassionate human being.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An authority on ancient DNA analysis, Sykes provides a nontechnical introduction to how Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA may be used to reveal ancestral heritage. Combining in-depth interviews with volunteers along with these genetic techniques, he attempts to create a biological portrait of the United States. Using a travel diary approach to describe his three-month coast-to-coast journey, he introduces the people he meets and reflects on how ancestry and heredity play into our culture, customs, and beliefs. While Sykes acknowledges that the sample is too small to draw significant conclusions, the results provide interesting perspectives on life in early America… These DNA portraits illustrate the complexity of human inheritance and how difficult it is to assign individuals to distinct groups.” (Library Journal)

“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 - ScienceNews)

“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 - New York Times Book Review)

About 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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (May 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871404125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871404121
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bryan Sykes is professor of human genetics at Oxford University. His company, Oxford Ancestors, traces human genetic backgrounds. Sykes's books include the New York Times best-selling The Seven Daughters of Eve.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 99 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.

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.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I'm a fan of Bryan Sykes and own all his other books. I was quite excited to see a "genetic portrait of America" on a level with the work he'd done in the British Isles and writtena about in "Saxons, Vikings, and Celts". I understand that the U.S. is a much larger country with a much larger population, but I still had high expectations based on Sykes's previous books. "DNA USA" does not even remotely attempt to paint the genetic portrait of America that is promised on the cover. There is some very good, very interesting information about Native American DNA, the science of chromosome painting, and population movements that had the genetics buff in me riveted. Unfortunately, white America is primarily represented by a handful of WASP types in New England and an occasional individual from another part of the country. Sykes actually only tested 25 individuals total for his "genetic portrait". Had the book not included a lot of info from other people's research, I'd have been quite disappointed indeed. I found the first half of the book extremely interesting, but unfortunately Sykes dedicates a significant portion of the book to his travels through the country, so that much of it reads like a memoir, with no science at all. I do recommend the book to anyone with an interest in this sort of genetic research; there are certainly sections that should not be missed. I do truly wish that the entire book had been on that level, and that more research had actually been done, as it had for the other books. 25 DNA samples to represent a country as large and diverse as this one? Not what I'd expected.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Intriguing Read May 14, 2012
A great deconstruction of preconceptions surrounding our genetic origins, DNA USA posits some provocative, if not downright iconoclastic, theses about our ancestry.

Mr. Sykes writes about material that's extremely complex with a colloquial accessibility; the book also benefits from Sykes' use of his team's physical journey as a means of grounding the conceptual shifts their investigation charts; the book also integrates an innovative use of graphs and charts wonderfully.

Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I have to say I was very disappointed after buying, and reading, the hardcover of this book. I expected so much more after reading Sykes' other books, "The Seven Daughters of Eve" and "Saxons, Vikings, and Celts."

I am a student of genetics, DNA and history with a 17-year hobby of genealogy. I thought this book would be tailor-made for my interests, but I was wrong. There was very little new in the book, and basically, it could have been a pamphlet with the color charts at the end being the most interesting part.

I love a good travel narrative and have quite a collection of them myself, but this was no interesting travelogue. It was self-indulgent and had details that no one would have been interested in, save Sykes and his own family. I kept thinking, where was his editor? Fully half the book could have been left out, and I wish it would have because it made me irritated to buy a book, allegedly about DNA, that was merely an excuse for Sykes to tell us about a trip with his son, and later his wife, to the US.

The book couldn't decide whether it wanted to be personal, or scholarly, and it failed at both. Having learned so much from Sykes' other books, I felt cheated when I got to the end, except for the above-mentioned color charts. I also felt that Sykes' DNA samples of US population were extremely too small for the population. Only 25 people were sampled in a nation of 313 million! That small of a context wouldn't even pass muster as a senior thesis in most universities.

I thought Sykes would probably delve more into the history of the US to show the genetic population shifts and how they have created the America we have today, but he was more concerned with his own story than the story of the US. If Sykes writes another book, I will wait until the paperback published, or even check it out at the library. Once burned, twice shy, and I do not intend to waste money on a hardcover with so little to show for it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Midly interesting at first but ultimately unsatisfying.
It is too long. It would be better in about 3 chapters. One on those who came by sea, one on the rest, and a summary chapter. I only got about 1/2 way through.
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointed
I have read the other books by Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve, Saxons, Vikings, and Celts, and Adam's Curse and I enjoyed them all. Read more
Published 24 days ago by connclpr
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Surprising, Insightful: an Uplifting Read Throughout
Bryan Sykes has an informative, friendly style that renders his possibly mind-numbing subject infinitely interesting and accessible. Read more
Published 1 month ago by jazzgal1
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sykes Winner
Sykes takes on the U.S.A. in his latest book on genetic testing, in his continuing quest to find the world's DNA roots.
Published 1 month ago by Theresa Snoddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book - a must read for anyone interested in the evolution of...
This is the 2nd Bryan Sykes book that I have read and I intend on reading them all. I cannot really put into words how thought provoking these books are about the development of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars horrible book
This book is anything but what the title implies. It is a combination of a boring travelogue, disjointed history, and almost a cv of Sykes. Read more
Published 3 months ago by j g hair md
3.0 out of 5 stars DNA USA:
Bryan churns out books and this one seemed to be more repetition of his earlier ones which were more in-depth and focused in my opinion. Read more
Published 5 months ago by James E. Jacobsen
4.0 out of 5 stars Your genetic's
A very insightful book about the basic of the human dna, Tribal attributes, Places of origin, historical data on the constant changing and adopting dna. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ethel L. Hess
3.0 out of 5 stars Many Facts Wrong But A Good General State of the Union DNA Summary
Basic fact check editing would have helped this book - knowing which states cities are in would be a great start. Read more
Published 7 months ago by BillR47
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightening
Tried to make a scientific subject into a story across America. Loved it, mind expanding and entertaining. Never quit learning.
Published 8 months ago by Grant
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