January: “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Our January 2019 Book of the Month

It is a rare occurrence when Literary Affairs selects non-fiction as our book of the month and this is the second time in three months that we have done so. According to polls many readers over the last year have turned to non-fiction as a genre and less fiction has been sold. It is an understandable trend as we grapple with the world we are currently living in and Inheritance, the soon to be released memoir by Dani Shapiro, is a deeply personal work that will resonate with many readers. It explores the issue of identity in a landscape where science and technology have outpaced laws and ethics. We believe our January Book of the Month, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro will inspire deep conversations in book clubs and introspection by readers about their own sense of family and identity.


What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?

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.

Inheritance is a book about secrets — secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in — a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.


Dani Shapiro is the author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Also an essayist and a journalist, Shapiro’s short fiction, essays, and journalistic pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of the New York Times, and many other publications. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School, and Wesleyan University; she is cofounder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

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