Cover Image: Origin

Origin

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Member Reviews

This book was eye opening for me. There was so much that I had never considered before about movement of ancient humans, especially in the Americas. The way that modern genetic techniques can be used to answer some of the questions is amazing.  I also appreciated the care the author took in discussing social and ethical considerations both past and present.  
Although the concepts are fairly dense in places, I think I could read this with my 10th  grade biology students.  There is a lot of detail, but it is written in a way that someone with minimal science background could grasp enough of the content to make it understandable.
Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book.
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This is an intriguing book, that takes a look at the idea of the descent of the native american population in our continent, and where could they have come from. More than the 'land bridge' theory you learned about in school, Raff takes on DNA evidence, and looks for shared dna and what that can tell both the scientist and layman. As one who does a lot of genealogy research, and looking at reports on dna, it was enlightening, but I wish there had charts to not only make the info more visual, but to make it easier to understand for those who aren't familiar with dna. Maybe on the next reprint, those can be added! Pictures of different sites discussed, and/or mapping of them would also help the non-history buff keep track of the different areas being discussed. RAFF does an excellent job in making the reader understand not only how LONG native americans have been on this continent before the European inviaders, but also how varied their dna shows they were. I think this book will become standard reading for college classes in btoh anthropolgy and history, to help better understand the actual world that was ineffably changed by those seeking riches in our continent.
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An illuminating educational and fascinating read.  Delves into dark history of genetic research on indigenous peoples in north south and Central America.
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One of the best books I've read in a long while.
I received a free Advanced Reading Copy via NetGalley in exchange for a complete and honest review.
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I've read of the use of dna in learning how the Americas were populated in recent years. It's an interesting subject and I am sure fraught with a myriad of arguements and theories on all sides. Ms. Raff's book breaks down the controversies, discoveries, and theories in language a layman can understand. It's really well written. I think the only thing the book needs, and they may well be added in the final print, is some charts, graphs, photos to aid the explanations. Great book on a new and exciting science. Kudos Jennifer Raff,
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This book reminds me why I need to read more non-fiction. Jennifer Raff does an amazing job of describing how the first people's made it to North America. She takes a highly scientific topic and explains it in such a way that everyone can understand.
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Dr. Raff presents a fascinating overview of prevailing knowledge of the original peopling of the Americas, and she does so with a clear respect for Indigenous peoples that is so often lacking in this field. While I found her writing most engaging in the stories she tells to give depth to the site discoveries, I found myself regularly wondering just how much of those stories themselves is supported by the evidence. 

That said, the book overall is full of an incredible amount of evidence and discussion of what is readily agreed upon in the field and where there is controversy. I'm hardly a geneticist or an anthropologist, but I do read a lot of scientific texts (both peer-reviewed and for more lay audiences), and there were times where I had a lot of trouble keeping up. It wasn't that the book is laden with jargon (it's not), but it does assume a certain familiarity with the fundamentals of the science. More impactfully, for me at least, is that the discussion of these ancient sites and timelines was really hard for me to imagine or contextualize. Having grown up in the United States with a public school education, we really only learned about US History from 1492 onward, with a very dominant and rose-colored lens on European colonization. We didn't learn about history anywhere else or the history of the Americas prior to European colonization at all. So the difference between 12,000 years ago and 15,000 years ago doesn't mean anything to my brain - my perception of human history only extends back about 500 years. While I obviously know people have existed a lot longer, I know next to nothing about them, and that makes some of the details here really hard for me to follow.

I also don't want to hit on this point too hard because I received an eARC and the figures were clearly not finalized, but I really felt like some additional figures could have helped A LOT. Some visual timelines, maps of the sites, more pictures of artifacts all could have really helped me understand better what I was reading. 

Overall, there were elements of this book that I really enjoyed -- especially around partnership with communities in research and the way she described the lives of those who inhabited the sites -- but overall a lot of this book felt kind of like a slog to me with time periods tough to differentiate. I'm still glad to have read it though, and maybe I'll have to learn more about human history and read it again.

Much appreciation to Twelve and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for the review.
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Jennifer Raff writes a very compelling story of genetics and indigenous peoples of the Americas. Her book, while based on science, is readable and interesting to the general public and anyone interested in origins. She debunks many old theories while laying them out in a common-sense way for the era in which they were formatted and lays the groundwork for new and exciting work done in the present and future on where the people that originally settled the Americas came from. 
Raff is not critical of theories of the past but does present them in the reality of the days they became accepted, which was a time and place of prejudice and ignorance about things and people not understood. Indigenous peoples were viewed as less than people with European ancestry and that view made abuse of the land and the people acceptable. Those with European ancestry often viewed themselves as superior in their knowledge, spiritual awareness, and genetics. It is a book worth reading for its science and its explanations of events. Thanks to #NetGalley#Origin for the opportunity to read and review this important book.
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I enjoyed this book. I liked how Dr. Raff put herself into the story, explaining the intricacies of working with Indigenous people and the challenges of working in an ancient-DNA lab, amongst a wide variety of other topics. I liked Raff’s enthusiasm and clear explanations of science. But the book is more than just science. It is history and ethics as well. I also feel that the book is important, that we should have a better understanding of the original inhabitants of North and South America. While Raff has certain interpretations of the information, I did not find her dogmatic. She presents both sides of an argument and uses data to support one side or the other. Overall, the book has a conversational, friendly tone and it was a pleasure to read. I recommend it for anyone interested in history and science. Thank you to Netgalley and Twelve Books for the advance reader copy.
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Conventional wisdom says the first humans to enter the Americas were the Clovis people, crossing the Beringia corridor 13,000-14,000 years ago. Yet tantalizing archeological evidence suggests the first migration may have been earlier, via a water route along the coast about 20,000 years ago, while ice sheets prevented an incursion over land. Since the land that made up the coast at the time is now under water, finding indisputable proof is difficult.

That's where genetics comes in. In this fascinating and accessible book, anthropological geneticist and science communicator Jennifer Raff provides proof through genetics that eludes archeologists. She also explores how Native Americans have defined their own origins, and how a long history of exploitation and distrust impedes scientific research. Ultimately, the message is one of hope and discovery.

Written for a lay audience, this book covers the subject extensively, from a variety of perspectives, in a way that's clear, sensitive, and understandable. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the subject.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.
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One of the best books I've read in a long while. 

Jennifer Raff is a great writer. Origin is interesting for its subject matter, but she makes paleogenetics <i>riveting</i>. Over the course of this book, she describes in detail how paleogeneticists uncover the history of ancient peoples, giving a critique of the problematic (and extraordinarily racist) history of the field and what has been done in recent years to heal the the entirely valid distrust between Native communities and researchers. She shows how ancient DNA is extracted and analyzed. She examines the archaeological data, context, dating methods, and virulent disagreements concerning "good" sites containing human evidence from the deep past. She provides a world-class primer on scientific research ethics and how to build trusting relationships among stakeholder communities. And she lays out the state of the science concerning how Native peoples moved from Siberia to places as far afield as Florida, Chile, and the Greater Antilles. (Extra points for describing the North American ice wall from the last glacier maximum as six times taller than the wall from Game of Thrones.)

This book is written for general readers, not specialists, and it's clear that Raff is involved in science education, because every chapter is accessible, perfectly structured, and crystal clear. Also, the further reading resources seem fantastic. I very much look forward to whatever Raff publishes next (and secretly wish she had time to teach other scientists how to write books, because this was a joy). Five stars.

ARC
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