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Inheritance : a memoir of genealogy, paternity, and love
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Where is it?
Fiction/Biography Profile
Family & relationships
DNA research
Family secrets
Time Period
-- 20th-21st century
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Trade Reviews
Library Journal Review
Memoirist (Hourglass) and novelist (Family History) Shapiro was told her entire life that she was an Orthodox Jew and had no reason to think otherwise. Except the author didn't look like anyone else in her family and also felt that she didn't exactly belong. So when she takes a DNA test on a whim and learns that her father is not her biological father, it makes sense but also turns her world upside down. It's revealed that her parents sought help conceiving at a less-than-reputable fertility clinic in the 1960s, when little was known about artificial insemination. Shapiro meets with relatives, rabbis, her biological father, and anyone else who might help her understand this. But what she really wants to know is how her parents could let this happen and if they realized how it would impact her life. Shapiro has written several memoirs on family (Still Writing, Devotion), and this latest is fast-paced, easy to read, and ultimately seeks answers to the questions of, who am I, why am I here, and how shall I live? All have something to do with love. VERDICT A fascinating read for memoir fans and anyone curious about how DNA tests could impact one's life.-Kristin Joy Anderson, Lewis Univ. Lib., Romeoville, IL © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


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.
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