"The Juggler's Children" by Carolyn Abraham

Carolyn Abraham's multi-racial background has always provided a sort of mystery to her life.  On both sides, her great-grandfathers were men of controversy, of whom there are family stories but no one is quite sure what the truth is.  The question of where they were from and how they ended up elsewhere always hung over her family.  

Genealogical research can give us some answers to family mysteries, but not all.  And so when Abraham, a medical-science writer for the Globe and Mail came across DNA test kits that could map out a persons identity, she jumped at the opportunity to try and solve the family mysteries once and for all.

The Juggler's Children: A Journey into Family, Legend, and the Genes that Bind Us is Abraham's story of researching her family history through old-fashioned globe-trekking and the new advancement of DNA technology.  But it's also a bigger story, about the nature of genetics, race, and identity, and how our big world is actually much smaller than we think. 

This is a fascinating story about family secrets, discovery, and the things that link us together.  Abraham knows that her family hails from all over the earth - India, Europe, China, and Jamaica.  Oral family history told that one of her great-grandfather's who was known as "The Captain" left Jamaica for India, but no one knew why.  It also told how that her other great-grandfather was a juggler, of Chinese origin, who moved to India, but no one knew for sure.  While her family did as much as research as they could, and discovered a lot of information the old fashioned way, the DNA tests came back with an incredible amount of information.

As Abraham takes readers on the journey of her family history, she also looks at the developments in science and technology that have brought us to the point where we are able to test our DNA to find out where in the world our ancestors come from.  She looks at the connections that are made between people all over the world who discover they share ancestors.   And she examines how, in the case of her husband, DNA testing can disprove long held family stories.

This book is packed full of information.  Anyone interested in genealogy will find it exciting and intriguing.  Anyone interested in science will also enjoy it.  As I read, I often stopped to read aloud sections to my husband who has a multi-racial background.  With his family, we have an idea of what races they are mixed with, but stories differ as to just how they are mixed together.  The only way one would ever know for sure would be through DNA testing.  

Abraham is a skilled writer who blends the personal narrative and scientific writing flawlessly, making this book accessible to all who read it.  It will definitely have you wondering about the stories behind your family and the ties that connect us throughout the world.


  1. Now this is the type of science book I know I could get into! :)

    1. It's very much like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in that there is a lot to learn about science, but a great read for people who aren't very scientific - like me!


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