Shapiro, Dani. “Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love”, Knopf, 2019.
Parenthood and Family
Dani Shapiro’s “Inheritance” is a memoir about a staggering family secret uncovered by a genealogy test and an exploration of the urgent ethical questions surrounding fertility treatments and DNA testing. Above all else it is an inquiry of paternity, identity, and love. We all wonder who we are and wonder what combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and soul defines us?
It was in the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro learned that her father was not her biological father. On one day her entire history changed. Shapiro’s “Inheritance” is a book about secrets, all kinds of secrets from those within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness to secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. This is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity that had been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years. What is so interesting is that during those fifty years, she had spent writing on themes of identity and family history.
This is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in and that moment is 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.
It was Dani Shapiro’s reactions to the discovery of her concealed paternity and her search for meaning that caused her to begin unraveling the mystery of her origins. She wrestles with questions about this and we share her struggle with how her biological vs. social ancestry has defined her. We live in a new world where DNA offers us so much causing identity to become more complicated as do the stories we tell ourselves to go along with it.