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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 a 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 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.
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