Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fascinating Family History Memoir Asks Thought-Provoking Questions About Family, Identity, Heritage, and More

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"All my life I had known there was a secret.  What I hadn't known—that secret was me."

For her entire life, Dani Shapiro has watched people puzzle over her looks.  Unlike the rest of her family, she has blonde hair and blue eyes.  More than one person has observed that she looks more Aryan than Jewish.  This stings a little because although she is not observant, Shapiro has always felt a strong connection to her Jewish past.  Of her stalwart forbears, she says:
These ancestors are the foundation upon which I have built my life.  I have dreamt of them, wrestled with them, longed for them.  I have tried to understand them.  In my writing, they have been my territory—my obsession, you might even say.  They are the tangled roots—thick, rich, and dark—that bind me to the turning earth.  During younger years when I was lost—particularly after my dad's death—I used them as my inner compass.  I would ask what to do, which way to turn.  I would listen intently, and hear them answer ... I can say with certainty that I've felt the presence of this long-gone crowd whenever I've sought them. (12)
It was with great shock, then, that Shapiro received startling results after taking a DNA test on a whim.  At 54 years old, she stumbled upon a stunning truth—her beloved dad was not, in fact, her biological father.  The more she dug into her own beginning, the more incredulous she became.  Her discoveries launched her on a quest—one that would prove frustrating, disturbing, enlightening, and ultimately, reassuring—to discover her truest self in all its bewildering complexity.

Inheritance, Shapiro's newest book, tells the story of the journey she undertook to find herself.  Again.  Despite its deep, thought-provoking subject matter, the volume is actually very readable.  It's quick but fascinating.  Throughout, Shapiro asks sharp, impactful questions about family, identity, medical ethics, and the sometimes huge effects that can come from small, "inconsequential" acts.  I found her story absorbing, her questions compelling, and her observations on point.  Inheritance gets high marks from me as I found it to be an enjoyable read on many different levels.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (2 F-bombs, plus occasional, milder expletives), and non-graphic references to sex

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

8 comments:

  1. This sounds absolutely incredible. I love explorations about identity and what "family" really means. So interesting. Great review!

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    1. I do, too. As soon as I heard about this one I knew I wanted to read it!

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  2. I'm so glad I read your review! I had read an interview with the author of the book and felt like I knew most of the story and wasn't sure if that would make the book worth reading but it definitely sounds like a fascinating book and it's a topic I'm really interested in.

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    1. Even if you already know what happens, the book is a pretty fast read. I also just really liked reading her observations as she went through the whole process. I think it's worth the read even if you know the story already. If you do read it, I'd definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts on it!

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  3. I like the sounds of this. My daughter and I both did DNA "testing" and hers was super useful. Mine less so since i am basically British/Irish white girl. :-)

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    1. Ha ha. Me, too. My DNA results didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. However, doing my adopted daughter's DNA has been interesting and helpful in finding her roots.

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  4. Ooh! I've been seeing this around lately and may have to grab a copy, since you enjoyed it so much! Thanks for tipping the scales for me. :)

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    1. I really did like it a lot, but I'm very interested in genealogy, family, and questions of identity within families of all kinds. I find it all super fascinating!

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