Dani Shapiro

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Dani Shapiro
Shapiro at the 2018 Texas Book Festival
Shapiro at the 2018 Texas Book Festival
BornDaneile Joyce Ellen Shapiro
(1962-04-10) April 10, 1962 (age 57)
New York City, United States
SpouseMichael Maren

Dani Shapiro (born April 10, 1962) is an American writer who is the author of five novels and the best-selling memoirs Hourglass, Slow Motion and Devotion. She has also written for magazines such as The New Yorker, The Oprah Magazine, Vogue, and ELLE.[1] Born Daneile Joyce Ellen Shapiro, she legally changed her name to Dani in 2017.


Shapiro attended the Pingry School, a prep school in New Jersey, then Sarah Lawrence College, where she was influenced by Grace Paley, who was one of her teachers.[2] Shapiro has also written for the screen, having adapted Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince for HBO in 1999. In 2000, she co-wrote a screenplay based on her memoir, Slow Motion, with her husband, journalist and screenwriter Michael Maren. She has been a professor of creative writing at Wesleyan University and an instructor at the New School and Columbia University.[3][4]

In a 2011 interview with the Jewish Ledger, Shapiro described being raised in a family with an Orthodox Jewish father (who, Shapiro later found out, was not her biological father), Paul Shapiro, and a mother, Irene, from South Jersey who had grown up in a Jewish, though non-Orthodox home. Her parents agreed to observe Judaism and Shapiro attended a Solomon Schechter Jewish day school through 6th grade. After moving from New York City to Connecticut in her 40s, Shapiro recounts her "vestigial feeling" connecting her to Judaism was reawakened and that she "could no more reject my Judaism than reject being female, or being a mother, or a wife, or a writer, or any of the things that most define me."[5][6]

On October 20, 2013, she appeared on Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday on the Oprah Winfrey Network to discuss Shapiro's book Devotion.

In 2019, Shapiro revealed that the results of a DNA test showed that her biological father was not Paul Shapiro, and that she had been conceived by mixing Paul's sperm with that of an anonymous donor, whom she later was able to identify.[7] Her latest book, "Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love" is a meditation on the meaning of family.[8]

Since 1997 she has been married[9] to screenwriter Michael Maren. They have one child.

Reflections on memoir[edit]

In The New York Times Book Review preparatory to the publication of her fourth memoir, Shapiro wrote, "People who have read my work feel as if they know me. And while certainly there is a powerful intimacy inherent in the experience of reading memoir, readers who meet me seem a bit embarrassed by this intimacy, as if, rather than having read my books, they have seen me naked without my consent. They seem to think of memoirs as more personal than any other literary form, as if the word 'memoir' necessarily signals confession, testimony, diary and strip tease all in one." Shapiro further wrote that she objected to the effects of this familiarity: "Shortly after the publication of my second memoir, I was startled to realize that I had become lonely. I had been speaking a great deal: in bookstores, behind podiums, on stages. I could weave articulate, compelling answers in discussion about my books. But when it came to my life—to that soft, pulsing, internal backbeat—people had stopped asking me questions, because they thought they already had the answers." She continued, "Some readers of memoir are looking for secrets, for complete transparency on the part of the author, as if the point is confession, and the process of reading memoir, a voyeuristic one. This idea of transparency troubles me, and is, I think, at the root of the serial memoirist’s plight. My goal when I sit down to write out of my own circumstances is not to make myself transparent. In fact, I am building an edifice. Stone by stone, I am constructing a story. Brick by brick, I am learning what image, what memory belongs to what." She concluded, "I have used my life—rather than my life using me—to make something more beautiful and refined than I could ever be."[10]


  • Playing with Fire Doubleday Publishing Group, 1990, ISBN 9780385267229
  • Fugitive Blue Nan A. Talese, 1992, ISBN 978-0385421072
  • Picturing the Wreck Doubleday, 1995, ISBN 978-0385472630
  • Slow Motion: A True Story Random House, 1998 ISBN 978-0-307-82800-2
  • Family History: A Novel Knopf, 2004 ISBN 978-0-307-42585-0
  • Black & White Knopf, 2007 ISBN 978-1-4000-3212-9
  • Devotion: A Memoir Harper, 2010 ISBN 978-0-06-162834-4
  • Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013 ISBN 978-0-8021-9343-8
  • Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Knopf, 2017 ISBN 978-0-4514-9448-1
  • Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love Knopf, 2019 ISBN 978-1524732714


  1. ^ "Barnes & Noble Interview & Writer Details". Retrieved Feb 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "Dani Shapiro | Inspiring People | Living Louder | DanaRoc.com". www.danaroc.com. Retrieved Feb 28, 2019.
  3. ^ About the Author, Powell's Books.
  4. ^ Shapiro, Dani (June 15, 2011). "#amwriting". NPlusOne. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
  5. ^ Mindell, Cindy. "Q & A: Author Dani Shapiro", Jewish Ledger, January 12, 2011. Accessed February 11, 2011.
  6. ^ "Review: 'Inheritance,' by Dani Shapiro". Star Tribune. Retrieved Feb 28, 2019.
  7. ^ Ridley, Jane (Jan 12, 2019). "I'm the result of a secret sperm concoction". Retrieved Feb 28, 2019.
  8. ^ https://www.familysecretspodcast.com/podcasts/bonus-episode-jennifer-mendelsohn-on-genealogy-and-secrets.htm
  9. ^ Weddings: "Dani Shapiro, Michael P Maren", The New York Times, June 8, 1997.
  10. ^ Shapiro, Dani, "When You Write a Memoir, Readers Think They Know You Better Than They Do", The New York Times, June 27, 2016.

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