DNA will uncover family secrets, but are you ready?


Inheritance author Dani Shapiro will be in St. Petersburg on Saturday! 

Readers of genealogy stories, you must have read her memoir, Inheritance, right? Dani Shapiro’s story, triggered by a DNA test that changes her life, is the latest example of the kind of upheaval today’s technology can bring. Shapiro, author of five memoirs and five novels, has taught creative writing at Columbia and New York University, and continues to teach through writing workshops. In Inheritance, she shares with us how she was raised Jewish in a world that seemed to question her inclusion. She heard repeatedly, “You don’t’ look Jewish.” Though she lived the traditions and never questioned her faith, she still carried the feeling that something was amiss in her identity. These feelings of what’s missing? and who am I really? appeared often as themes in her writing. 

Then she did the test. DNA findings dictated that her father wasn’t really her father. Research findings told her that she was the product of donated sperm and her world was turned upside down. Drowning in new questions, Shapiro embarks on a journey that professional genealogists, in this current day of easy access to DNA testing and database matching, should be prepared to navigate for their clients. It’s no longer about finding distant ancestors or our cultural identity. Genealogy today is about seeking out family members we didn’t know existed and discovering the truths about ourselves and our immediate, not ancestral, identity. Dani Shapiro didn’t simply wonder what would happen if she did a DNA test. She always felt as if some family secret or truth hadn’t yet been revealed. Here’s how she describes what she found: 

 “All my life I had known there was a secret,” Shapiro writes. “What I hadn’t known: the secret was me.”

Since her discovery, Shapiro has launched the podcast, Family Secrets, where she interviews and helps share the secrets that others have uncovered through research, DNA testing, or otherwise found information. Season three of Family Secrets launches on February 6, 2020.  

Inheritance became an immediate New York Times bestseller, reviewed here, and more recently, Shapiro was interviewed by Book Editor Colette Bancroft in the Tampa Bay Times.  

Shapiro will read this Saturday, 18 January 2020, night at 8 PM as part of the Writer’s in Paradise Conference at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. If you haven’t read Inheritance, the conference readings are free and open to the public. She’ll be signing books and you can pick one up there. If you can’t wait until Saturday, you can buy the book, or listen to the audiobook, narrated by her. That’s what I did, and I found that listening to her voice tell her own story made the book that much more engaging. I finished it in two days. Still, I’ll be getting a copy on Saturday too. 

If you’re into genealogy because you like uncovering mysteries and secrets, like I am, then you’ll enjoy Dani Shapiro’s book Inheritance and her podcast, Family Secrets

What family secrets have you uncovered? The Florida Genealogical Society wants to hear about them! 

About Vicki Entreken

Vicki is an editor, writer, and creative writing coach with a passion for researching and preserving historical photographs and documents; especially those which help to unearth long-buried family secrets. She’s currently writing a book and pursuing a master’s certificate in digital humanities.