DNA + Inheritance

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

This past Saturday, I downloaded the audible of Inheritance by Dani Shapiro. The author read her book and it was about 6 hours long. Funny how some audibles are 15 hours and then this one only 6. This book was praised by Elin Hildebrand recently so it was on my wish list. I vaguely knew what it was about but decided to listen to it while I was working on organizing my bedroom. I had read many novels by this author but this was a personal non-fiction book, her story about finding out that her Father was not her biological Father through Ancestry.com.

Dani Shapiro, born into a devout, religious Jewish family was very fair, blonde with blue eyes. All her life she had fielded comments about how she didn’t look Jewish and described how these seemingly benign observations had had an effect on her -chiseling away at how she viewed herself.

A quick Ancestry.com spit test started the unraveling of who she was or who she thought she was up to that point. The detail in which she describes the events and how she put all the pieces together are staggering. Her voice is so calm yet so full of emotion that several times in the book I had tears in my eyes, which doesn’t happen so often to me. I was so invested in her story and the outcome, that three moments in the timeline, described so honestly and with such care literally choked me up and made me cry.

What is so striking is that this happened to a famous author, one with a researcher’s mind, tools and the means to travel across the country to get to the bottom of her truth. I couldn’t help but think how many people are using these new genealogy tests to see where they are from and end up finding out way more than they bargained for. Parents having affairs years ago, producing children that show up and want to meet their siblings or..children put up for adoption at birth for all the right reasons and now they are coming looking for their parents. Being a sperm donor was a popular way to earn a quick buck years ago and that is what happened in this story. Dani’s Mother was having a hard time conceiving so she consulted a fertility expert. The “expert”, a sort of renegade, was mixing sperm from sperm donors with patients’ husbands to increase the positive outcomes. After she figured out this is what happened, her quest in this story was to figure out if her beloved Father knew she was not his actual daughter. She does find out this answer and is lucky enough to find her biological Father, who is still alive. The leading up to this amazing discovery is nail biting.

I don’t want to give any more away because I highly recommend reading or listening to this book. Recently, I have totally embraced audible books, listening to them while I drive back and forth to work. I try not to listen at home so they last longer and it makes me actually look forward to getting in the car and sitting in traffic.

How many people have taken these tests? One friend from work thinks they are a way for the government to collect data on all of us and would NEVER do it. Someone told me that boys have a more accurate reading so I asked my brother to take one so we could really see where we are from. He has researched our family tree so didn’t see a need but I do think it would be interesting to have some proof. One side (my Mom’s) is 50% Italian and 50% Greek. Knowing both Grandparents and their extended families my whole life, it would be shocking if this information were not accurate. The other side (my Dad’s) is more of a wild card. We know there is English and Welsh roots but late in the game with a Grandmother on her deathbed, she blurted out that there was some Polish ancestry that was conveniently left out on paperwork years ago. Polish? Seriously? My Grandmother was on morphine so it was easy information to discount but the Ancestry.com tree that you build with the leaves proved that there was indeed some Polish relatives in addition to the English and Welsh. Talk about a turn of events. And that isn’t that serious of a curveball, imagine finding out some skeletons in your family’s closet, it could be so distressing and disruptive.

Have you taken one of these tests and been surprised by the results? I would love to hear about it!