NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“A gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family.” —Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach
From the acclaimed, best-selling memoirist and novelist—“a writer of rare talent” (Cheryl Strayed)—a memoir about the staggering family secret uncovered by a genealogy test: an exploration of the urgent ethical questions surrounding fertility treatments and DNA testing, and a profound inquiry of paternity, identity, and love.
What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history--the life she had lived--crumbled beneath her.
Inheritance is a book about secrets--secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman's urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in--a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Dani Shapiro has based much of her writing—novels and memoirs both—on careful and unsparing examinations of her family’s history and heritage. But when she receives a shocking result from a mail-order DNA kit, her world breaks wide open and she starts to question everything she thought she knew about herself. Shapiro’s elegant and thoughtful memoir offers a clear-eyed account of this private heartbreak. Inheritance is a gift for anyone who’s ever questioned their biological destiny or longed for a more expansive definition of “family.”
In this fascinating memoir, Shapiro (Hourglass) writes of how she questioned her identity when a DNA test revealed that she was not, as she believed she was, 100% Jewish. Shapiro grew up in an Orthodox family in suburban New Jersey; blonde-haired and blue-eyed, she often felt out of place in a family of dark-haired Ashkenazi Jews, yet she had shrugged off the physical differences. But when she got the DNA test results, the then-54-year-old began researching her family history, and within months she unraveled a narrative leading back to the 1960s and the early days of artificial insemination. Her own parents had died, but now, with the support of her husband and son, she discovered her biological father, a doctor from Portland. Shapiro realized that her childhood, her ancestral lineage, and the foundation of her world were based on deception. "What potent combination of lawlessness, secrecy, desire, shame, greed, and confusion had led to my conception?" Shapiro writes. With thoughtful candor, she explores the ethical questions surrounding sperm donation, the consequences of DNA testing, and the emotional impact of having an uprooted religious and ethnic identity. This beautifully written, thought-provoking genealogical mystery will captivate readers from the very first pages.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Wow, there is so much going on here. Not only does the author let us in on her very personal journey to discover her true “family”, she shows us the pain and vulnerability that precedes it. Big BIG questions about identity and ethics and the future (and past) of the medical practices we are beginning to take for granted today - things that were unheard of (or at least not discussed) 50 years ago. For me, though, just as important is the theme of secrets and what that does to a family and to the individual as they build their life. Really enjoyed this book and it brought up a lot of questions in my own life.