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Go Ask Your Father about DNA

di Redazione FGB [1], 5 Febbraio 2010

Imagine the scene, you grow up in a seemingly normal working class family but you always have the feeling that you are an outsider within that family, then just before your father's death your mentally unstable uncle tells you that he has a secret that he wants to tell you. Your father dies and your uncle claims that he is your biological father.

You try not to think about it, but it is always at the back of your mind, until eventually you decide to try and discover the truth. But how? And to ask a more philosophical question why? Aren't your parents the people that have brought you up?

In his book entitled Go Ask Your Father: One Man's Obsession with Finding His Origins Through DNA Testing, Lennard J. Davis recounts his own very personal story as he attempts to discover the truth about his parentage. As you might imagine the process described is an extremely emotional one, but that also raises numerous moral and ethical questions. The right to use the DNA of someone who is no longer here to give their informed consent, ideas of what constitutes a family, personal identity, reasonable doubt, the right to know, the right and perceived need not to tell and the question of who we are beyond a mere collection of genes just to mention a few.

The book also contains an ocean of interesting pieces of knowledge, an explanation of what DNA is, how the sampling and analysis takes place, a history of artificial insemination and and idea of the amount of information that we can gain about our personal history through its analysis.

A quote from the sleeve-notes gives and idea some of the weight of the question:
"At last the envelope from the lab arrives... My hands shake when I pick up this bland-looking envelope, knowing that inside I will find the answer to the obsessive question I have been asking... Suddenly I'm incredibly nervous, as if I am standing on the edge of a cliff, about to plunge into something shocking and deep. I feel as if I'm facing my own execution. In a sense I am, since the former me may be undone."

A well written and thought provoking book, full of humor and irony while at the same time informative and challenging, highly recommended.

Go Ask Your Father: One Man's Obsession with Finding His Origins Through DNA Testing [2] is published by Bantam Books in New York, 2009.

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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553805512
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