Duana Fullwiley has penned an intimate chronicle of laboratory life in the genomic age. She presents many of the influential scientists at the forefront of genetics who have redefined how we practice medicine and law and understand ancestry in an era of big data and waning privacy. Exceedingly relatable and human, the scientists in these pages often struggle for visibility, teeter on the tightrope of inclusion, and work tirelessly to imprint the future. As they actively imagine a more equal and just world, they often find themselves ensnared in reproducing timeworn conceits of race and racism that can seed the same health disparities they hope to resolve.
Nothing dynamic can live for long as a blank slate, an innocent tabula rasa. But how the blank slate of the once-raceless human genome became one of racial differences, in various forms of what Fullwiley calls the tabula raza, has a very specific and familiar history—one that has cycled through the ages in unexpected ways.