Genetic Strand: Book summary and reviews of Genetic Strand by Edward Ball

Genetic Strand

Exploring a Family History Through DNA

by Edward Ball

Genetic Strand by Edward Ball X
Genetic Strand by Edward Ball
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2007
    288 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

In 2000, after a decade in New York City, Ball bought a house in Charleston, South Carolina, home to his father's family for generations, and furnished it with heirloom pieces from his relatives. In one old desk he was startled to discover a secret drawer, sealed perhaps since the Civil War, in which someone had hidden a trove of family hair, with each lock of hair labeled and dated. The strange find propelled him to investigate: what might DNA science reveal about the people -- Ball's family members, long dead -- to whom the hair had belonged? Did the hair come from white relatives, as family tradition insisted? How can genetic tests explain personal identity?

Part crime-scene investigation, part genealogical romp, The Genetic Strand is a personal odyssey into DNA and family history. The story takes the reader into forensics labs where technicians screen remains, using genetics breakthroughs like DNA fingerprinting, and into rooms where fathers nervously await paternity test results. It also summons the writer¹s entertaining and idiosyncratic family, such as Ball¹s antebellum predecessor, Aunt Betsy, who published nutty books on good Southern society; Kate Fuller, the enigmatic ancestor who may have introduced African genes into the Ball family pool; and the author¹s first cousin Catherine, very much alive, who donates a cheek swab from a mouth more attuned to sweet iced tea than DNA sampling.

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Media Reviews

"Twists and turns that rival a well-plotted detective story, complete with a surprise ending." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Ball's tale will intrigue America's many amateur genealogists and also serve as a cautionary tale." - Publishers Weekly.

"Nonscientists will benefit from his lucid explanations of genetic techniques and terminology. The final chapter, however, disappoints, as the author abandons his inquisitive approach to indulge in complaints about how scientists interpret genetic data and communicate their conclusions to the public." - Library Journal.

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