Author Dani Shapiro Chronicles Her New Origin Story in New Book

In her latest memoir, the best-selling author unearths a hidden family secret after receiving the results of a DNA testing kit.

Author Dani Shapiro at her home in Connecticut. Photo courtesy of Michael Maren

Author Dani Shapiro wasn’t expecting any major revelations when she spit into a tube and sent off her DNA for analysis through a genealogy website. So when the results came back showing that her father was not her biological father, Shapiro was floored. “The rug was pulled out from under me,” she says. “It seemed out of the question.”

The blue-eyed and blonde-haired Shapiro, who grew up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish household in Hillside, was often told she didn’t look the part. “I didn’t look Jewish,” she says. “I looked like I came from another part of the world.” But at no point did she expect a family secret as big as this one.

Photo courtesy of the publisher.

A mere 36 hours after reading the results, Shapiro was able to identify the man who was her biological father, or at least the sperm donor. What followed was a life-changing journey, a full investigation of her own identity and belonging that she chronicles in her new memoir, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, due January 15 from Knopf.

“As a memoirist, writer and journalist, I’ve been digging for the truth my entire life,” says Shapiro, the author of four previous memoirs and five novels. “There are some ways in which I was writing toward or around this all my life.”

Without living parents to ask for the answers, Shapiro went looking wherever she could, including to Philadelphia, where she had been conceived at a fertility clinic. “I was consumed with what my parents knew,” she says. “Did they actively keep information from me, or did the institute not tell my parents?”

Shapiro hopes the story of her discovery reaches others with similar experiences. “I’ve never felt so excited for a book before,” she says. “It has a purpose.”

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