by Bryan Sykes ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 14, 2012
For that reason alone, the book should be celebrated. But Sykes should also be applauded for his skills as a storyteller,...
Sykes (Human Genetics/Oxford Univ.; Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland, 2006, etc.) combines history, science, travel and memoir in one grand exposition of what it means to be an “American.”
America, writes the author, is “where the genes of three great continents converge.” Initially, it was Asian forebears that peopled the new world. Through analysis of mitochondrial DNA, the origins of Native Americans can be traced to three mother clusters arriving from Siberia and a fourth from Polynesia. The arrival dates, based on mitochondrial DNA mutation rates, establish a range of about 16,000 to 20,000 years ago. Unfortunately, high-handed methods toward Native tribes have created a rift that persists today, for what the scientists were doing was destroying beliefs that these natives have existed here forever. Not so for Americans of European or African descent. They know they came from elsewhere and are eager for all the details, as witness the thriving genealogy industry. Geneticists can use mitochondrial DNA as well as y-chromosome analysis, along with the latest DNA chip technologies, including “chromosomal painting.” The latter allows experts to pinpoint selected blocks of genes on individual chromosomes that reflect a European, Asian or African ancestor. Traveling cross-country by train and car with his son and back again with a female assistant, Sykes gathered saliva samples for painting analysis. 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. In the end, Sykes provides the revelations of those salivary analyses: For the most part we are a motley crew, so much so as to give the lie to any idea that there are pure races or ethnicities.For that reason alone, the book should be celebrated. But Sykes should also be applauded for his skills as a storyteller, science expositor, travel companion and compassionate human being.
Pub Date: May 14, 2012
Page Count: 356
Review Posted Online: April 20, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012
Share your opinion of this book
by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
Share your opinion of this book
Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
Share your opinion of this book
More About This Book
SEEN & HEARD
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!