The Six-Point Inspection

Genes, Egyptians, and Jews

In The Six-Point Inspection, Zócalo takes a quick look at new books that are changing the way we see our world.

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright

The nutshell: History, science writing, and investigative journalism merge to tell a story of genes, disease, and religion that moves from the mountains of the American Southwest to the labs of Manhattan. Journalist Jeff Wheelwright’s jumping-off point is the death of a 28-year-old Hispano woman in Colorado-and her family’s discovery that they carry a BRCA1 gene mutation that that afflicts Ashkenazi Jews, and increases their risk of breast cancer.

Literary lovechild of: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: The idea of a genetic test freaks you out-but you want to take one.

Cocktail party fodder: One in five contemporary Iberians are of Jewish ancestry.

For optimal benefit: Read before your next doctor’s appointment-you’ll want to delve deeper into your family’s medical history.

Snap judgment: A lively and compassionate story populated by vivid characters and intriguing science.

The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square by Steven A. Cook

The nutshell: This history of the past 60 years in Egypt, by Middle-East scholar Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, explores the nation’s struggle for identity and the nature of its alliance with the United States.

Literary lovechild of: T.E. Lawrence and Gordon S. Wood.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re longing to go to Cairo but uncomfortable with teargas.

Cocktail party fodder: Over three decades, the U.S. gave Mubarak $70 billion in military and economic aid.

For optimal benefit: Read now-before Egypt’s next chapter is written.

Snap judgment: The Struggle for Egypt is comprehensive-and full of personal stories that bring the country to life.


Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition by Marni Davis

The nutshell: Georgia State University historian Marni Davis explores the cultural and economic relationship between Jews and alcohol before, during, and after Prohibition and the connection between teetotalism and anti-Semitism.

Literary lovechild of: Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and Albert Isaac Slomovitz’s The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains and American History.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’ve been hooked since your first sip of Manischewitz.

Cocktail party fodder: The Jewish star was the insignia of the medieval European brewers’ guild.

For optimal benefit: Read with a bottle of fine kosher wine.

Snap judgment: Davis’s argument appears highly specialized, but is ultimately a nuanced history of assimilation and discrimination. Plus, how can you not love a book called Jews and Booze?