Book review: 'DNA USA' explores genetic roots

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 21 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

"DNA USA: A Genetic Biography of America," by Bryan Sykes, Liveright Publishing Corporation, $27.95, 354 pages (nf)

Bryan Sykes’ newest book, “DNA USA,” explores the varied genetic heritage of people who call the United States of America home.

For three months, Sykes, an internationally renown human geneticist from England, traveled the U.S. from sea to shining sea, interviewing a variety of people, taking DNA samples, conferring with colleagues and drawing some broad conclusions about DNA in the U.S. population.

His interviews and sampling ranged from Native American to African-American to blue-blood New Englanders.

In addition to scientific background and history of DNA research, Sykes shares how the study of human DNA has become useful in helping to track down ancestors.

He gives a brief history of four genealogical DNA testing firms established in the last 13 years — his own business, Oxford Ancestors in England, Family Tree DNA, Relative Genetics and Sorensen Genome Institute in the U.S.

Sorensen Genome Institute, now Sorensen Molecular Genealogy Foundation, is a Utah business established in 1999 and a collaboration between James Sorensen and Brigham Young University professor, Scott Woodward.

Sykes writes in a fluid, storytelling style that is reader-friendly, and explains his work in layman’s terms.

The book is divided into three sections, which the author calls “movements,” comparing DNA study to discovering the parts of a symphony. The text is a mixture of science, history and travelogue — but never loses sight of the book's focus of DNA research in the U.S.

A number of black and white photos documenting Sykes’ cross-country journey illustrate the book. Charts, images of DNA patterns, an appendix, endnotes, and an index are also included.

Sykes is also the author of the bestselling “The Seven Daughters of Eve.” He is a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at Wolfson College.

if you go ...

What: Bryan Sykes book signing

When: Friday, April 27, at 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at www.dramaticdimensions.com.

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