Uncovering Family Secrets: Forming a New Identity

Uncovering Family Secrets: Forming a New Identity

Los Angeles Public Library Blog
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles, California

Janice Batzdorff, Librarian

Imagine discovering that the man who raised you is not your biological father. That your mother’s race differs from how she presented herself. That the person you are attracted to is your sibling. That you are the descendent of a renowned individual. A monstrous one.

Unknown details about blood relationships surface through DNA testing, genealogical research, an adoptee meeting a birth parent, or a confession made, perhaps after a loved one dies. Learning the truth triggers feelings ranging from betrayal to outrage over privileges denied, to joy at meeting new relatives, to a sense of peace in connecting to one’s heritage.

Novelists have the latitude to develop a backstory for family secrets, whereas historians and memoir writers generally don’t have access to such information. Are the fictional narratives about lineage less plausible? To decide, consider the following true stories…

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