Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love

I read Dani Shapiro’s latest book about her discovery that her father was not her biological father. Through the Ancestry.com DNA testing, she found out that she was not 100% Ashkenazi Jew as she thought. Her father turned out to be a sperm donor. She tells the story of how she found her biological father and why her parents kept it a secret.

This book appealed to me because I am adopted and am looking into my DNA ancestry recently. I can relate to much of what she goes through, although my story differs significantly. My adopted parents always told me I was adopted. My biological father was not a sperm donor in an institutional setting. Like Shapiro, I made contact with a biological parent and like her, I see the affects of heredity versus the setting and manner of my childhood.

She writes, “…felt, to me, like my native country. I had never lived in this country. I had never spoken its language of become steeped in its customs. I had no passport or record of citizenship. Still, I had been shaped by my country of origin all of my life,”

Discovering my half of my biological family was similar. It helped me understand why I was different in temperament than the rest of my family. I am an extrovert, quick to laugh, and abhor routines, while they were quiet and loved routines. It was quite a shock to the author. Many of her books are memoirs and focus on her growing up and I think she found out why. She is blond and looks “WASPY” while being raised in a Jewish family. Her mother sounded mentally ill and the experience had a big impact on her. At least from what I can perceive, I am not as traumatized from the experience as her.

As Shapiro experienced, finding your biological family later in life is such a good experience. It has helped me learn my complete story. I feel sorry for children of anonymous sperm donors who may never find their father. Although, with advances in genetic testing, that will be changing. As more people get tested, the database will eventually match donors with their offspring. Most donors didn’t think the technology would be able to do this so quickly.

The story also made me think about shame. Shapiro’s parents were ashamed that they were not able to have children and had to resort to a shady or unorthodox clinic to conceive. Eventually, the truth was discovered by their daughter. It would be easy for her to judge them, especially looking back at the past from the world of today. However, I felt in her book, she tries to understand them. We are all human and make mistakes. I’ve made my share of them and Shapiro probably has too. I like how she is going forward with her relationship with her biological father and his family. It also must be embarrassing for him to be discovered by an child from a sperm donor clinic. He handles it with dignity and focuses on the most important thing, the relationship he can have with a daughter.

It was an uplifting book and gave me perspective on my own life.

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