The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess

Race, Religion, and DNA

Jeff Wheelwright (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book

A brilliant and emotionally resonant exploration of science and family history.

A vibrant young Hispano woman, Shonnie Medina, inherits a breast-cancer mutation known as BRCA1.185delAG. It is a genetic variant characteristic of Jews. The Medinas knew they were descended from Native Americans and Spanish Catholics, but they did not know that they had Jewish ancestry as well. The mutation most likely sprang from Sephardic Jews hounded by the Spanish Inquisition. The discovery of the gene leads to a fascinating investigation of cultural history and modern genetics by Dr. Harry Ostrer and other experts on the DNA of Jewish populations.

Set in the isolated San Luis Valley of Colorado, this beautiful and harrowing book tells of the Medina family’s five-hundred-year passage from medieval Spain to the American Southwest and of their surprising conversion from Catholicism to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1980s. Rejecting conventional therapies in her struggle against cancer, Shonnie Medina died in 1999. Her life embodies a story that could change the way we think about race and faith.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • January 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-393-08191-6
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 272 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Wheelwright is a marvelously intelligent writer with a lyrical bent that complements his scientific rigor. His compassionate account of such complex subjects is both engaging and enlightening.” — Irene Wanner, Seattle Times

“A freewheeling trip through Southwestern culture and religion, Jewish history and modern genetics…An intriguing tale told with gusto.” — Kirkus Reviews

Also by Jeff Wheelwright All

  1. Book CoverThe Irritable Heart: The Medical Mystery of the Gulf War


All Subjects