Winter Speaker Series 2021: Libby Copeland

February 27, 2021 2:00 pm Virtual, Live on Zoom

"The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Has Changed Our Understanding of Family, Ethnicity, and Identity"

Libby Copeland is an award-winning freelance writer, former Washington Post reporter and editor, and author of the acclaimed new book The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are. The book evolved from a 2017 story written for The Washington Post about family “surprises” unearthed by home DNA testing. Her article drew an enormous response from readers, hundreds of whom shared their own experiences with DNA revelations. No surprise, as at-home DNA testing has become a cultural phenomenon and an industry worth billions, with over 35 million people tested.

The Lost Family explores the concepts of family, ethnicity, and identity through the riveting tale of Alice Collins Plebuch, whose DNA test yielded unexpected and mysterious results. Curiosity piqued, Plebuch launched two and a half years of intensive genetic genealogy work to unravel the surprising explanation of her true genetic roots. Drawing on Alice’s story, the stories of others, and years of research, Libby Copeland will discuss home DNA testing’s implications for how we think about who we are, where we are from, and what defines family.

Live Zoom Lecture will be followed by audience Q&A with Libby Copeland via Zoom chat.

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NEW! Bundle your Ticket with Copeland’s book!

The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are, by Libby Copeland

Join journalist Libby Copeland as she investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. Copeland explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.

$25.00   tax, shipping and autographed bookplate included, 2020, hardcover, 304 pages, Abrams Press.

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About the Speaker

Libby Copeland is an award-winning journalist and author, who writes from New York about culture, science, and human behavior. As a freelance journalist, she writes for such media outlets as The Atlantic, Slate, New York, Smithsonian, The New York Times, The New Republic,, and The Wall Street Journal. Her book, The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are, was published in March by Abrams Press.

The Lost Family explores the rapidly evolving phenomenon of home DNA testing, its implications for how we think about family and ourselves, and its ramifications for American culture broadly.

The Wall Street Journal says it’s “a fascinating account of lives dramatically affected by genetic sleuthing.” The New York Times writes, “Before You Spit in That Vial, Read This Book.” The Washington Post says The Lost Family “reads like an Agatha Christie mystery” and “wrestles with some of the biggest questions in life: Who are we? What is family? Are we defined by nature, nurture or both?”

As a staff reporter and editor for The Washington Post for 11 years, Libby wrote feature stories from the 2008 presidential campaign trail, the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, and the 2005 Michael Jackson trial, and she edited the newspaper’s television coverage. She has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, and NPR as an expert on topics that she has covered, and she has been a guest speaker many times on writing and reporting.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she was a 2010 media fellow at Stanford University. Her article for, “Kate’s Still Here,” won Hearst Magazines’ 2017 Editorial Excellence Award for “reported feature or profile.” She previously won first prize in the feature specialty category from the Society for Features Journalism. She lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and two children.

Thank you to our generous sponsors:

Johanna and Ronald Becker
Santiago Neville
Cynthia Sinclair
Kathleen Shinners
Lockett Ford Ballard, Jr.
Mary Jennings

This event is made possible by your support of the Annual Fund.

Thank you to the Winter Speaker Series Committee

Johanna Becker, Chairwoman
Cristin Searles Bilodeau, Director of Community Engagement
Eleanor Doumato
Anne DuBose Joslin
Susan Kieronski
Santiago Neville
Kathleen Shinners