Dani Shapiro

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, 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.

The writing is that of a true storyteller who will not stop until she has bored down to the bottom of where she came from, and in this she is at her narrative best.

Written with generosity and honesty, Inheritance takes the modern phenomenon of casual DNA testing and builds a deeply personal narrative around it. The result is a vital, necessary read from a talented author.

Shapiro is skilled at spinning her personal explorations into narrative gold.

Shapiro’s account is beautifully written and deeply moving — it brought me to tears more than once.

Excellent prose aside, what makes Inheritance a great read is that it makes us consider the things we take for granted, and how a single moment can unravel them…. the book poses questions that are increasingly relevant in our everyday world.

Inheritance zooms in on the blind spots that result when reproductive technology outpaces an understanding of its consequences. In viewing this important and timely topic through a highly personal lens, Inheritance succeeds admirably.

Inheritance offers a thought-provoking look at the shifting landscape of identity.

Inheritance adds significantly to Shapiro’s body of work while plugging into some of our culture’s most pressing concerns – identity, technology and medical ethics, among others. Although her story is unique to her, it offers a way of thinking about our changing, uncertain times.

Shapiro [writes] this spare, lyrical story shattering the polished portrait of her life and piecing the fragments carefully, gorgeously back together.

Shapiro unpacks a beautiful and heartbreaking narrative of paternity, genetics, and family.

Inheritance reads like an introspective mystery as Shapiro sorts facts from fiction.

- Elle

In Inheritance, Shapiro movingly reckons with identity and family secrets.

Fascinating…This beautifully written, thought-provoking genealogical mystery will captivate readers from the very first pages.

For all the trauma that the discovery put her through, Shapiro recognizes that what she had experienced was a great story—one that has inspired her best book.

- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Page after page, Shapiro displays a disarming honesty and an acute desire to know the unknowable.

- Booklist (starred review)