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DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America [Kindle Edition]

Bryan Sykes
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Product Description


"Sykes stands up his main conclusions beautifully. We are (almost) all little melting pots." --Debora MacKenzie, The New Scientist

About the Author

Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford and founder of Oxford Ancestors, is the author of The Seven Daughters of Eve and Saxons, Vikings and Celts.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3129 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0871404125
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (7 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #514,849 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars So Where Did Our DNA Come From? 13 July 2013
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars See the USA through your DNA 29 July 2013
By bernie VINE VOICE
This is a fascinating read. It starts out reading like one of those stogy reports kin the Kinsey. But quickly clears up the different types DNA used in testing with the strengths of each type. And not to burst your bubble we also learn what DNA cannot do in tracking down our ancestry.

Soon we are tracking down different clans and other groups. This includes many begats like the Bible but there are many interesting tidbits about each clan and group as we go along. The other information is just as fascinating if not more as the dry DNA facts. He also put in a few plugs for his other books.

Then we break into a full blown travel log. I do not know if it helps to have been in the places before reading the book, however I was so his descriptions of locations brought back memories. Still this part of the book is peppered with interesting facts about what people think of DNA. We get a small dissertation on Sequoyah "George Gist" (1767-1843), inventor of the Cherokee syllabary.

He really does not wrap the book up with a synopsis of what was read or even a target of the writing. By this time we really do not care and feel a little sad that he stopped.

I took the DNA spit test and it actually matched my known history. I am a little disappointed that I did not have anything exotic. Some people got a percentage of unknown at this time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. 2 July 2014
Highly recommended.

Sykes never fails to raise the bar. Others may jump but none jump higher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  65 reviews
101 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Fascinating in parts, but Overall Disappointed 9 May 2012
By Book Shark - Published on
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.
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 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.

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: The Extreme Science of the Human Body From Quantum Theory to the Mysteries of the Brain" by Brian Clegg, "The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution" by Gregory Cochran, "Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA" by Daniel J. Fairbanks, "Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project" by Spencer Wells "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, "The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" by Sean B. Carroll, "Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Vintage)" by Neil Shubin, "Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors" by Nicholas Wade and "A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present" by Howard Zinn.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Sections, But Not Sykes's Best Work 15 Jun. 2012
By Fairy Godmother's Bookshelf - Published on
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.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Intriguing Read 14 May 2012
By J. Crowe - Published on
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Loved Sykes' other books, but this one is uneven and feels padded with his self-absorbed travel diary 5 May 2013
By BlackArrow - Published on
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Tour 23 May 2012
By D. Martinez - Published on
This non-technical survey of the diversity of the peoples of the United States is filled with interesting (and sometimes unexpected) information that paints a picture of the diverse heritage of its citizens. The author's tour across America is at once entertaining and informative. A few of the place names in the west are misidentified or misspelled, which should have been corrected. However, the overall findings, and the accompanying color charts and descriptions of the technical aspects of the research are very engaging. For those interested in geneology, human migrations and genetics, this is a fascinating journey into the diversity and complexity of the peoples of the United States.
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