Inheritance, Dani Shapiro, Alfred A Knopf, 2019, 252 pp
Partial Summary From Goodreads:
The acclaimed and beloved author of Hourglass now gives us a new memoir about identity, paternity, and family secrets—a real-time exploration of the staggering discovery she recently made about her father, and her struggle to piece together the hidden story of her own life.
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.
I was not as blown away by this memoir as most readers seem to have been. It was my first time reading Dani Shapiro and I don't guess we have much in common as far as worldview and emotional concerns go. That is alright. It happens to me with real live people I meet as well.
I was fascinated to learn some history about artificial insemination. In the 1950s it was as messed up as any other aspect of reproduction, sex, and the effects of all that on women. Dani Shapiro's mother, as portrayed in the book, made me think of the wife in John Williams's Stoner.
The more fraught subject for me is the intersection of genealogy, genetic engineering and eugenics. Richard Powers took that on in his 2009 novel Generosity. I just don't trust the human race and our science in a world that still has atomic arsenals, active White Supremacists and Fascism, to do anything but harm with genetic engineering.
Aside from the writing, which I found a bit weak and sometimes overwrought, Dani Shapiro did enlist my sympathies as she described her childhood, her deep feelings of not fitting in to her Jewish family, and her confusions about her relationship with her father. I could not predict how I would have reacted to the news she got or how I would have dealt with it.
Thus the book was not a waste of my reading time. It left me with empathy for people in my life who had to search for their birth parents. I used to feel so out of place in my family while growing up that I wondered if I had been adopted and they just hadn't told me yet.