An Instant NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A LOS ANGELES TIMES, BOSTON GLOBE, WALL STREET JOURNAL, and NATIONAL INDIE BESTSELLER
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR according to Elle, Real Simple, and Kirkus Reviews
“Memoir gold: a profound and exquisitely rendered exploration of identity and the true meaning of family.” —People Magazine
“Beautifully written and deeply moving—it brought me to tears more than once.”—Ruth Franklin, The New York Times Book Review
From the acclaimed, best-selling memoirist, novelist—“a writer of rare talent” (Cheryl Strayed)— and host of the hit podcast Family Secrets, comes 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.
Best book I read last year
This book stays with you long after you’re done reading. It’s like a fragrance or a flavor that makes a trip back to you with all its detail.
The best book I have read in years. Kol hakavod!
As an adoptive parent I found Dani Shapiro’s memoir fascinating. She is a gifted storyteller and through her words unlocks a world which I thought I had known.
I’m still thinking about her story. It will be with me for a long time.