Just imagine for a moment that you decide to submit your DNA to one of those genealogy testing sites and the results come back but with a truth bomb attached to it. Imagine reading the results only to discover what you thought you knew about yourself was completely wrong. What if a beloved parent really wasn’t your parent after all? How would you handle a discovery like that?
That is exactly what happens to author Dani Shapiro in her revealing memoir Inheritance A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. Published in 2019 by Knopf, Shapiro’s book takes you through a tale of revelation, betrayal, reflection, self -examination and a reclaiming of identity that leads to the path of closure.
Even as a child Shapiro knew something wasn’t quite right about her identity. She was raised Jewish and believed up until the moment the DNA results came in that she was fully 100% Jewish. The results told a different story, only 52%. This leads to the next big revelation and within that context comes the painful truth that her half-sister really isn’t her half-sister and the man she had known as her father is not her father. The further she probes, she learns her biological father was a sperm donor. Shapiro drudges up from the recess of her mind old memories. Comments from family friends and neighbors about her physical appearance are painfully recalled. She falls down a rabbit hole or several, in search of answers concerning the truth about her identity. However, the two people that she needs to talk the most about this are her parents. The problem with that is they are both deceased. From the past to the present, history mixed with science leads her to the truth.
In my past experience some memoirs can be a bit of a dull read. This is not one of those. This book is a real page-turner. You are fully engaged in her story. Her memoir is carefully, respectfully, and meticulously written. She is conscientious of her donor father’s privacy and that of his family’s once she locates him. Her memoir is very well researched too. Some of the strong points is in the research she does to educate the reader on the science and statistical information concerning sperm donors, DNA results, and the legal aspect of it all. Shapiro is open and vulnerable with her life on full display. She shows genuine emotions and real struggles with the truth of who she is. She asks soul searching questions such as “What makes a person a person?” (Pg.27). There are comments made that inspire introspection such as ” It is rare that you get an opportunity in life to stand outside yourself.” (Pg. 138). The book makes you think because this is a story that can happen to anyone especially now with all the technology available to search with.
On a final note, I’d like to talk about the cover jacket. I love cover art on books. The one she uses for Inheritance is hauntingly beautiful. Appropriate for the content of this book. It’s a good read to add to your collection.
Disclaimer: I write for fun and am in no way paid by anyone for my observations, musings, ramblings, or reviews.
Note: Above image was photographed by me. I mean seriously, taking a photo of a book is almost just as fun as writing about a book.