The Juggler’s Children

A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us

Carolyn Abraham explores the stunning power and ethical pitfalls of using genetic tests to answer questions of genealogy–by cracking the genome of her own family.
 
Recently, tens of thousands of people have been drawn to mail-order DNA tests to learn about their family roots. Abraham investigates whether this burgeoning new science can help solve 2 mysteries that have haunted her multi-racial family for more than a century. Both hinge on her enigmatic great-grandfathers–a hero who died young and a scoundrel who disappeared. Can the DNA they left behind reveal their stories from beyond the grave?
 
Armed with DNA kits, Abraham criss-crosses the globe, taking cells from relatives and strangers, a genetic journey that turns up far more than she bargained for–ugly truths and moral quandaries. With lively writing and a compelling personal narrative, The Juggler’s Children tackles profound questions around the genetics of identity, race and humanity, and tells a big story about our small world, with vivid proof that genes bind us all to the branches of one family tree.

Reviews

FINALIST 2013 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2014 – BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
LONGLISTED 2014 – RBC Taylor Prize
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

 
“The Juggler’s Children is many things, each one spellbinding: a thrillerish quest for origins, a continent-spanning travelogue and an eye-opening foray into the annals and ethics of genetic science…. Abraham’s family is unusual, but so is her virtuosity as a writer; she’s probing, intelligent, dryly funny but enough of a writer’s writer that she can make the awkward process of DNA swabbing seem magisterial…. Abraham’s book is riveting not just because of its superb writing and suspenseful storyline, but because, in the end, it’s not just about her, it’s about us.”
Emily Donaldson, The Globe and Mail
 
“With an irreverent sense of humour and the smarts of an experienced medical-science journalist, Abraham describes how questions about her ancestry had gnawed at her since childhood…. What her genes wind up revealing—about not only her own background but everyone else’s—is richer than any tall family tale.”
The Georgia Straight
 
“Abraham is the ideal guide to the brave and crowded new world of internet genealogy…. Abraham writes with ease and humour, undaunted by com­plexity, and the narrative unfolds like a detective story.”
Literary Review of Canada
 
“Abraham’s  story of personal connection—the stories, the letters and the memories—end up being more compelling than the scientific revelations…. The Juggler’s Children is a fascinating tale of truth, lies, perception and, ultimately, family.”
Winnipeg Free Press
 
“Lively, accessible style…. Though this book is built around science, it’s the personal experiences and relationships Abraham describes that will remain with readers.”
The Gazette

The Juggler’s Children is as exciting as any explorer’s account of the discovery of a new land, as carefully written as a fine novel, as rigorous as it is entertaining.”
—Ian Brown, award-winning author of The Boy in the Moon

The Juggler’s Children is simultaneously a compelling family mystery and brilliant science writing. As she cracks her own family’s genetic code, Carolyn Abraham makes the complexities of DNA and the genetic linkages that bind us immediately accessible.”
—Dr. Miriam Shuchman, prize-winning author of The Drug Trial

“Combining traditional journalistic digging with the cutting edge science of genetic genealogy, Carolyn Abraham takes us on a witty and engaging journey across India, China, Europe and Jamaica in search of her polyglot family ancestry…. In the end, she vividly demonstrates that inside the microcosmic gene pool of a single Canadian family—and thus all families—we will find the vast history of humanity. Whether princes or paupers, slaves or slave-drivers, we’re all the same under the skin.”
—James FitzGerald, author of What Disturbs Our Blood, winner of the Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize