Search Results for: DNA

How a DNA Testing Kit Revealed a Family Secret Hidden for 54 Years

Longreads Pick

A personal essay by memoirist Dani Shapiro about discovering, accidentally through DNA testing, that the father she knew was not her biological parent. In the piece she advocates for the rights of children produced through assisted reproduction, after decades in which those of parents and donor prevailed, and children were kept in the dark about their true parentage.

Source: Time Magazine
Published: Jan 3, 2019
Length: 6 minutes (1,599 words)

This Is What It’s Like to Be Kidnapped by Pirates

Longreads Pick

Trapped on a stolen tuna boat for thirty-two days with the corpse of the murdered captain, tropical heat, rumors of pending hangings, rumors of ransom negotiations, a broken anchor, a raging sea, and the lingering question: should you jump overboard and try to swim to shore? That’s just the beginning.

Source: GQ
Published: Jul 24, 2018
Length: 14 minutes (3,609 words)

An Elegy for DNAinfo, Local Media’s First Responders

DNAinfo reporter Ben Fractenberg speaks to writers, journalists, and labor activists at a protest at City Hall. The site was shut down a week after its employees voted to unionize. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Danielle Tcholakian

If you haven’t already read about it, on the afternoon of November 2, DNAinfo New York and Chicago, as well as Gothamist and all its sister sites in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. were shut down by their owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, a week after 25 employees in New York voted to join a union. Ricketts had founded DNAinfo in 2009, merging it with the older, more profitable Gothamist sites this spring, shedding staff and catalyzing the union effort.

The end came quickly. One employee returned from the restroom to find that he and all of his colleagues had been fired, and the site’s archive had been removed from the internet. (The archives have since been restored after a public outcry.) Shutting Gothamist and DNAinfo meant 115 people lost their jobs that day.

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The Uncomfortable Discoveries That Come with Home DNA Testing Kits

Photo: Associated Press

In the Washington Post, Libby Copeland follows the story of Alice Collins Plebuch, a 69-year-old woman who believed she was the daughter of Irish Americans until she took a “just-for-fun DNA test” that upended everything she thought she knew about her family history.

Genetic testing companies like 23andMe and have made it much easier for consumers to learn more about their genealogy and health risks. But home testing kits have also led people to unexpected discoveries:

For adoptees, many of whom can’t access information about their birthparents because of closed adoption laws, DNA testing can let them bypass years, even decades, of conventional research to find “DNA cousins” who may very well lead them to their families.

But DNA testing can also yield uncomfortable surprises. Some testers, looking for a little more information about a grandparent’s origins, or to confirm a family legend about Native American heritage, may not be prepared for results that disrupt their sense of identity. Often, that means finding out their dad is not actually their dad, or discovering a relative that they never knew existed — perhaps a baby conceived out of wedlock or given up for adoption.

In 2014, 23andMe estimated that 7,000 users of its service had discovered unexpected paternity or previously-unknown siblings — a relatively small fraction of overall users. The company no longer provides data on surprise results. However, its customer base has more than doubled since 2014, and now contains more than 2 million people — and as more people get involved with recreational genomics, bloodline surprises are certain to become a more common experience. The 2020s may turn out to be the decade that killed family secrets, for better and for worse.

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Who Was She? A DNA Test Only Opened New Mysteries

Longreads Pick

For most of her life, Alice Collins Plebuch believed she was the daughter of Irish Americans. A DNA test upended everything she thought she knew about her family history.

Source: Washington Post
Published: Jul 27, 2017
Length: 24 minutes (6,000 words)

What I Learned About Terrorism by Talking With My Father’s Kidnapper

Longreads Pick

The daughter of Terry Anderson—the Associated Press bureau chief held hostage and tortured in Lebanon for seven years from 1985 to 1991—interviews her father’s kidnapper, and gains insight into what makes Islamic terrorists tick.

Source: Longreads
Published: Oct 26, 2016
Length: 7 minutes (1,882 words)

A Fish So Coveted People Have Smuggled, Kidnapped, and Killed For It

Longreads Pick

The Asian arowana or “dragon fish” is protected by the Endangered Species Act and illegal to own in the U.S. But the tropical fish’s status symbol among wealthy buyers has made it the object of a thriving black market.

Source: Scribner
Published: Jul 18, 2016
Length: 17 minutes (4,498 words)

A Fish So Coveted People Have Smuggled, Kidnapped, and Killed For It

Photo: Qian Hu

Emily Voigt | Scribner | May 2016 | 18 minutes (4,498 words)


The excerpt below is adapted from The Dragon Behind the Glass, by Emily Voigt. This story is recommended by Longreads editor Mike Dang.

* * *

Taiping, Malaysia, May 11, 2004

Chan Kok Kuan still wasn’t home. Too worried to sleep, his father, Chan Ah Chai, stood at the window watching for a sign of his son through the blinding downpour. The rain had started at midnight and was still pummeling the ground at 4:00 a.m.—flooding the streets and overflowing the lakes in the public gardens, where the century-old saman trees stretch their massive canopies over Residency Road.

A wiry, exuberant man of thirty-one, the younger Chan was not the type to stay out late without calling. He had been home for dinner that evening, as usual, after working all day at the aquarium shop he opened a few years back. Even as a child, he had loved anything with fins. Now he was expert in one species in particular: the Asian arowana, the most expensive tropical fish in the world.

In Chinese, the creature is known as long yu, the dragon fish, for its sinuous body plated with large scales as round and shiny as coins. At maturity, the primitive predator reaches the length of a samurai sword, about two to three feet, and takes on a multihued sheen. A pair of whiskers juts from its lower lip, and two gauzy pectoral fins extend from its sides, suggesting a dragon in flight. This resemblance has led to the belief that the fish brings prosperity and good fortune, acting as a protective talisman to ward off evil and harm. Read more…

The False Promise of DNA Testing

Longreads Pick

DNA typing has long been used as irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence in the criminal-justice system, but errors made in crime labs have many questioning its effectiveness.

Source: The Atlantic
Published: May 17, 2016
Length: 25 minutes (6,401 words)

Kidnapping a Nazi General: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Perfect Heist

Longreads Pick

Travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor recalls his most dangerous journey.

Source: Longreads
Published: Jan 7, 2016
Length: 33 minutes (8,432 words)