Don’t have plans Saturday? Why not hang out with all your distant cousins at what will possibly be the biggest family reunion of all time.
New York author A.J. Jacobs, writer of “The Year of Living Biblically,” is working on a new book, “It’s All Relative,” which explores the revolution in research on familial links.
For part of his research, he’s throwing a huge party called the Global Family Reunion, a festival in Queens where participants will celebrate their relationships, no matter how distant they may be.
The event features a variety of guests, including musicians, writers, geneticists, celebrities and a video greeting from former President George H.W. Bush. Satellite events around the world will also take place Saturday.
Proceeds left over after event costs are covered will support Alzheimer’s research.
amNewYork spoke with Jacobs about his undertaking.
How did this project grow from just an idea to your work of stunt journalism?
I didn’t know what to make of it at first. Then I was fascinated by the idea. Scientifically, we can show how we’re related to almost anyone on earth. I thought, “Since I have all these millions of relatives, why not throw a party?” That’s how the idea came: the mother of all family reunions. Everyone is invited.
What details will you be looking out for at the event in Queens on Saturday?
I want every race, creed and color represented. We have over 50 speakers and they’re all talking about family from a different point of view. Henry Louis Gates, the host of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots,” will be there, and the “Glee” star Jenna Ushkowitz is going to talk about adoption because she was adopted from South Korea. Then — of course — I’m very excited about Sister Sledge, who is singing “We Are Family.”
What has the most interesting part of your genealogy research been?
This idea of family history touches on every part of human behavior: sex, money, power, psychology, biology. DNA tests are showing that there is no such thing as racial purity. We’re all a mix, and we’re getting more and more mixed. A melting pot is turning into a puree.
Your grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s; how did his story factor into the decision to support Alzheimer’s research?
He was my father’s father, Arnold Jacobs. One of the most important parts of family is the family story and collective memories. That’s what Alzheimer’s robs us of. In my grandfather’s case, he had a very fascinating life. He grew up in a tenement on the Lower East Side in extreme poverty, and I wasn’t old enough to know to ask him about that before Alzheimer’s hit. And I always regret that.
If You Go: Global Family Reunion, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.. $30. Held at New York Hall of Science in Queens, Corona; globalfamilyreunion.com. Go to globalfamilyreunion.eventbrite.com/?discount=SPEAKER to save 25% off the ticket price.