Rochman: The Gene Machine

Cover: Gene Machine

Cover: Gene Machine


Bonnie Rochman
Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 28, 2017; $26
ISBN-10:0374160783; ISBN-13:978-0374160784

Rochman reports:

The idea for this book grew out of a online series and subsequent cover story about sequencing children’s genomes that I wrote in 2012.You know how once you finish a big project, you either never want to hear another word about the topic, or you’re even more intrigued? For me, it was the latter.

The Gene Machine explores all the ways that genetic technologies are reshaping the experience of parenting, diving into expanded carrier screening, noninvasive prenatal testing, and sophisticated genomic tests that yield results that aren’t readily explained. It spins the stories of families who have opted for these tests and those who have opted out. In other words, it asks: How much do you really want to know as a parent about your embryo, your unborn baby, your child?

Bonnie Rochman

Bonnie Rochman

Having a Time cover story under my belt helped me snag an agent; it was like a calling card. I briefly considered self-publishing, but am glad I went the traditional route. I love my editor, plus I think it is still the case that going with a major publishing house gets you on the radar of influential reviewers.

If I ever do this book thing again, I will do so with a bit more equanimity. In the 2.5 years since my book went under contract, my editor went on maternity leave, which essentially meant the manuscript was edited twice, with all the attendant ups and downs of that scenario; my agent decided to leave the business; and the publicist assigned to my book quit six weeks or so before pub date. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I’ve learned a lot and — just like having a baby — the second time around has got to be easier.

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