By Bryan Sykes
Liveright Publishing Corp, $27.95, 353 pages

Author and genetics professor Bryan Sykes wanted to write a story of America, of how in five hundred years the country transformed from a rural, sparsely populated, geographically isolated country into the technically advanced, wealthiest, most powerful country in the world. But he wanted to do it on a cellular level. Thus DNA USA: A Genetic Biography of America was born and answers Sykes central question: what story do our genes tell of our origins and how do they define what it means to be American?

Sykes begins with an examination of the original homelands of Americans, then explores how these worlds collide with one another on the shores of a new continent and finally studies the DNA of modern Americans and “how the atoms of ancient ancestry work together to preserve and alter human destiny.”

From ancient Clovis-age DNA to Jews and Africans, from the New England shores and across the prairie, Sykes follows the genetics of humans as they populate what would become the United States. Sykes’s journey through the American genome is complex, approachable and often surprising.


Reviewed by Axie Barclay,