By Caroline Wallis, 23andMe Content Strategist
As a 23andMe employee, I know genetic testing sometimes uncovers family secrets. Having learned of one myself, I also know some of the many emotions that can ensue with these kinds of surprises.
But Dani Shapiro’s poignant memoir Inheritance goes beyond just emotion and follows the slow unraveling of a family secret that challenges everything the author knew about herself.
An only child from an Orthodox Jewish household, Shapiro is an accomplished memoirist, who was already fascinated with identity when she decided to take a DNA test as an adult. After receiving her results suggesting the dad she grew up with wasn’t actually her biological father, Shapiro embarks on a quest to find her “real” relatives.
This journey takes her all over the US to consult medical experts, spiritual leaders, and relatives both genetic and otherwise. Along the way, she learns about the untold early history of fertility clinics like the one she was conceived in. The experience imparts new perspectives on paternity, the meaning of family, and identity.
One of the biggest lessons I took away from this book is that there is no script for these kinds of reunion stories. Although my story is slightly different, (e.g. My parents are in fact my biological parents) the waves of shock, anguish, and new-found determination that Dani Shapiro described were all emotions that resonated with my own experience.
Inheritance is a heartfelt personal story told with an honesty that has validated and helped me navigate my own journey.