Bestselling author Dani Shapiro read from her latest book, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love, and shared her personal journey of discovery that was the book's inspiration at a special event hosted by the Loomis Chaffee Parents Association (LCPA) in Katharine Brush Library on Friday, April 26.
LCPA co-presidents Susie and Gary Lotreck welcomed an audience of more than 70 members of the Loomis Chaffee community, including some parents of newly-accepted students. Book Club chair Jenny Quigley arranged Ms. Shapiro's appearance for the event and introduced her, saying that the evening was about "making connections."
In Inheritance, Ms. Shapiro relates the story of casually submitting her DNA for analysis in 2016 and discovering through a genealogy website that the man she knew as her father was not her biological father.
She read several passages from her book that describe her feverish search of the internet to uncover the truth about her biological father — who was a sperm donor — and the realization that her parents had kept from her information about how she had been conceived.
The memoir is about the uncovering of two mysteries, according to Ms. Shapiro. The first, her biological father's identity, took only 36 hours. The swiftness of this discovery was due to fast and easy DNA testing and the power of the internet, she said. The second mystery, why her parents had chosen to pursue infertility treatment and take the secret to their graves, was much more complicated, time-consuming, and nuanced. Interviews with elderly family members and other individuals shed light on the process and ethos of dealing with infertility — especially male infertility — in the early 1960s and helped lead her to some measure of understanding.
Ms. Shapiro connected with her biological father who lives with his family in Oregon, and continues to forge a relationship with him. She is still processing what it all means in terms of her own identity, she said.
Ms. Shapiro noted that 12 million DNA testing kits were sold in the United States in 2018, making them the "most popular holiday gift last year." The societal impact of DNA testing in the age of the internet is both profound and intense as millions of previously anonymous biological offspring are "showing up," she said. This trend has prompted legions of biological and adoptive parents, their children, and their families to ask the question, "What do we owe one another?"
After her talk, Ms. Shapiro answered questions from the audience and signed copies of her book.
Released in January, Inheritance debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List at No. 11, and Ms. Shapiro has appeared on several national broadcasts and in venues across the country, including at Stanford University and Harvard Medical School's ethics forum.
Copies of Inheritance are available in Loomis Chaffee's Alexander Bookstore and at booksellers nationwide. Connect to Ms. Shapiro's website to learn more about her other publications and her "Family Secrets" podcast.