Last week, I received another email offering me an ancestry.com package for only $59. The email said it is a perfect gift for Father’s Day. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love (2019); proves that knowledge of one’s ancestry is not always the gift you were expecting.
Dani’s family is made up of Orthodox Jews. On her father’s side, she is related to famous Rabbis and community leaders. This has always been a source of pride for non-observant Dani. When her DNA test reveals that she and her half-sister are not genetically related to each other a quick look in the mirror proves that it is Dani who is biologically not part of the family.
The quest to find the truth reveals not an affair but a test tube. 54 years ago Dani’s parents were unable to conceive, they used a fertility institute. The science now tells us that the sperm used was not from her Jewish father but from a stranger of various European ancestry.
Each part of her discovery is beautifully written and made for an engaging read. But as I read the book, I often thought what does it matter? The man who raised Dani is long dead and Dani’s concerns about not being Jewish are completely unfounded by anyone’s definition.
But then I wondered how I would feel if my parents knowingly lied to me or if my parents were lied to about my origins. The science of genetic testing is chillingly cheap and easy. I know several stories of people who have done the test on a whim and had life-changing consequences. Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance is a beautiful book about one woman’s journey into her truth and perhaps it’s a cautionary tale to those interested in spitting into a test tube just for the fun of it.
This is a book I will definitely yenta about, it will make a for a good book group discussion.