Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love: A Review

March 27, 2019

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance Review

Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Ancestry, Bioethics, Jewish

Family secrets….bioethics…..if you send in a DNA sample to Ancestry on a lark, be prepared for truth.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Receiving DNA results from Ancestry propels a determined and persistent Dani Shapiro into a quest for identity and paternity. Shapiro thoughtfully unravels family secrets as she explores the meaning of love versus biology, a new cultural heritage, and family bonds. The story behind Shapiro’s discovery is not what you might expect and I won’t spoil that part of the story for you. You will want to know, though, that the ethical considerations that she brings up are worthy of discussion and careful thought.

My Thoughts:

Fair, blond-haired, and blue-eyed Shapiro always felt out of place in the sea of her family’s dark hair and dark eyes. While most of us would be shocked at the news Shapiro received through DNA results, we might not have been as rocked to our core as she was. Shapiro had cut her mother out of her life, and the news regarding Shapiro’s paternity affected her entire sense of self because she had so closely embraced and identified with her father’s family history. Because she admired her father’s side of the family and drew strength from the stories and accomplishments of her ancestors, she was devastated and felt betrayed as though she had lost everything.

Inheritance was a fascinating and compelling read for me because my husband has been using Ancestry DNA in an attempt to discover the identity of his biological father. I can imagine that DNA results might be causing some panic among older mothers who decades earlier (before it was so easy to determine paternity) led husbands to believe that a child was theirs or assumed that adoptions would remain private. As a result of careless youthful activities, some men could be surprised by adult children showing up on their doorsteps. What Shapiro experienced might become more common place as more people receive DNA results. I want to restate, though, that the details of Shapiro’s conception are not what readers would commonly suspect and is a unique and an extremely interesting part of her story.

Although engaging, interesting, and honestly written, Inheritance could have benefited from some stronger editing to reduce the length and minimize some repetitiveness. I listened to this on audio and it might come across differently in print.

Inheritance is recommended for readers who love compelling memoir, for those who appreciate thinking through ethical concerns, and for fans of Dani Shapiro.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Inheritance:A Menoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love INFORMATION

Meet the Author, Dani Shapiro

Dani ShapiroDani Shapiro is the best-selling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her short fiction, essays, and journalistic pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of The New York Times, and many other publications. Dani has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, The New School and Wesleyan University. She is co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She lives in Litchfield County, Connecticut with her family. Dani’s latest book, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love will be published by Knopf in January, 2019.

Let’s Discuss!

Do you like memoir? Have you read this or is it on your TBR?

Have you DNA tested?

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Looking Ahead:

 On Friday look for a review of
Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

Winter and Spring TBR

I’ll be providing my last update for my Winter TBR as I read the last selection this week.

Here’s my Spring TBR.

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  1. […] (it’s time for another memoir!…. this one hits close to home as my hubs has been searching for his bio father using the DNA match process for some time….. hubs and I are buddy reading this!) ***UPDATE: Fascinating. 4 Stars. Full review here. […]

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