The book is recommended reading in my Bioethics Law class. This is a Law/Medicine class that combines students from the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health, and the School of Law, so a broad cross-section of people will base their opinions of JWs on this book. My fellow students include a working neonatologist, a Japanese Health Department employee, a Chinese gentleman who works for some Chinese gov't agency, a North African lawyer, an Australian international health care worker, an undergrad ethics professor from a different, but local, university, and a social worker who is a fellow at a local pediatric bioethics foundation. The rest of us are JD students or heath law LLMs (JDs who are getting their masters in health law).
The author does a great job of weaving together genetics, Jewish history, and JW culture. In sum, the BRCA.185delAG breast cancer suppression gene is a Jewish gene; if you have it, you have a Jewish ancestor. The story traces the gene from the Spanish Inquisition and Spain's Jewish expulsion (think Christopher Columbus) and to the Hispanos who settled in New Mexico and Colorado. He accomplishes this through the case of a Hispana female with the gene, who develops breast cancer, and whose family had converted to JWs.
The author really gets JW culture. He watched her "windowless" Kingdom Hall wedding video, and noted the very "wooden" ending of ...'so long as live together according to God's marital arrangement....' He mentions the patient's sister who is forgoing kids and pioneering instead because the big A is sooooo close.
He also addresses the penchant for JWs to seek alternative treatments. Sadly, he relates the story of the "German" uncle, who married into the family and sold quilts to get money for her treatment. His wife has the gene, a lump, and needs a biopsy, but since he has a loser job and the wife cleans houses, they don't have the money. The husband rationalizes away not wanting to pay for the biopsy to both his wife and the author by saying they would use natural treatments anyway, so it doesn't matter! The Uncle claims he loved his niece, and that she would always say, "Uncle, I see an elder in you!"
I'm only about 30 pages in, but the author hints that the reason the woman dies is not breast cancer but her treatment refusal. I suspect there might be a blood issue coming up, but I'm not sure.
BTW, this book is a very NON-technical, easy read, and I highly recommend it!
In 2008, science writer Wheelwright reported in Smithsonian magazine on the discovery in Catholic Hispanos in New Mexico and Colorado of a genetic mutation, BRCA1.185delAG, that is characteristic of Jews. The mutation, whose designation indicates that the letters AG are missing at location 185 on the gene, causes the gene to fail at its task of suppressing cancer. The author tells the story of the discovery of its ancient origins more than 2,000 years ago among Hebrew tribes in the Middle East, the dispersion of the Jews to Europe, the enforced conversion of many Jews to Catholicism under the Spanish Inquisition and the arrival of Spaniards in the New World. Into this large picture, Wheelwright weaves the story of Shonnie Medina, a young Hispano woman who carried the mutation, and of her extended family, possible carriers of the gene. Medina was raised a Catholic but became a Jehovah's Witness, a fact that allows the author to weave another thread into his complex tapestry