Every family has a secret. But what if that secret makes you question your own place in the family? Mixing equal parts memoir, detective story, and popular-science narrative, this is the emotionally charged account of one man’s quest to find out the truth about his genetic heritage–and confront the agonizing possibility of having to redefine the first fifty years of his life.
Shortly before his father’s death, Lennard Davis received a cryptic call from his uncle Abie, who said he had a secret he wanted to tell him one day. When finally revealed, the secret–that Abie himself was Davis’s father, via donor insemination–seemed too preposterous to be true. Born in 1949, Davis wasn’t even sure that artificial insemination had existed at that time. Moreover, his uncle was mentally unstable, an unreliable witness to the past. Davis tried to erase the whole episode from his mind.
Yet it wouldn’t disappear. As a child, Davis had always felt oddly out of place in his family. Could Abie’s story explain why? Over time Davis’s doubts grew into an obsession, until finally, some twenty years after Abie’s phone call, he launched an investigation–one that took him to DNA labs and online genealogical research sites, and into intense conversations with family members whose connection to him he had begun to doubt.
At once an absorbing personal journey and a fascinating intellectual foray into the little-known history of artificial insemination and our millennia-long attempt to understand the mysteries of sexual reproduction, Davis’s quest challenges us to ask who we are beyond a mere collection of genes. And as the possibility of finding the truth comes tantalizingly within reach, with Davis facing the agonizing possibility of having to reenvision his early years and his relationships with those closest to him, his search turns into a moving meditation on the nature of family bonds, as well as a new understanding of the significance of the swarms of chemicals that are the blueprints for our very human selves.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Go Ask Your Father|
|Release Date: 05-19-2009|
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|Publisher: Bantam Books|
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Go Ask Your Father
A Phone Call and Its Consequences
It was June 2, 1981, and I was in my apartment on Morningside Drive in New York City working on a new book. A professor in the Columbia University Department of English, married, with a one-year-old son, I had a life that seemed pretty steady. At that particular moment, however, I was grieving. My father, Morris Davis, had died a week earlier, just before his eighty-third birthday, after a long, slow decline caused by prostate cancer.
Born in 1949, I was the son of Morris and Eva, and I had grown up in the Bronx with my brother, Gerald. Aside from the fact that my parents were both deaf and we spoke sign language at home, ours was a typical, ordinary family. I felt sure that I understood the basic contours of my life as well as anyone else did.
But this was a difficult time. I was still feeling the strangeness of being an orphan. My mother had died ten years before, having been hit by a truck while crossing the street when I was twenty-two years old. And now my father, too, was dead, a mere two days after slipping into a coma.
The phone rang, taking me away from my work. It was a call from my uncle Abie, my father's younger brother. We began talking about dividing up some of my father's possessions. As we were discussing these details, I remembered that a month or two earlier Abie had taken me aside at my father's hospital bed and said in an unwelcome, confidential tone, "I've got a secret, but I can't say what it is until your father dies."
At the time I had shrugged off Abie's sepulchral whisper in my ear as yet another of the odd and annoying things that had come out of his mouth over the years. Abie was someone my ...