Pip Murdoch offers us a raw and honest account of her personal journey of giving birth and placing her child up for adoption in the early seventies in New Zealand in Relative Strangers. Murdoch spoke with Grandparents NZ about writing Relative Strangers.
Pregnancy at a young age in the 1970’s often came with shame, hushed voices and adoption. Why was it important to you to speak so openly through writing your book?
Yes, it was a shameful experience to get pregnant and give up a baby in the 60’s and 70s, and the women carried the shame. Most often the father’s of the babies were never mentioned and even today, I feel as though I still carry that stigma, whereas the fathers are still unknown and not judged. That in part motivated my writing. As well, having listened to so many adoption and reunion stories, I hoped by telling mine, others might feel more comfortable about their own experiences.
Relative Strangers is your first book, did you feel a compulsion to write about your experiences?
My desire to write this came slowly and not as a compulsion. When I first thought of writing memoir it was in a generic way and honing it down to this particular facet of my life, quickly became my project.
Did you keep diaries during the time or notes that helped turn Relative Strangers in to the book it is today or are the memories vivid making it easy to draw upon the memories?
I have always been a poor diary keeper and this is very much ‘memoir’, with lashings of poetic licence. However, many of the early memories are very strong, as the emotions were so potent at the time.
How did you feel when you finished and published your book?
When I completed the book, I felt as though if I were to start it again today it would be quite different. I’m thrilled I’ve managed to finish it, but having found it reasonably easy to articulate my story in print, the prospect of other’s reading the nitty-gritty of my life is quite daunting.
As this is a personal story, at any point did you consider writing under a pseudonym? Why was it important to you not to?
The notion of a pseudonym never occurred to me. I have been careful to alter names and places so that others are not implicated in my revelations. Being, on the whole, an open honest person I was happy for it to be my disclosure. I don’t think I could have written it in this way if my parents were still alive.
Language has power, what do you hope to achieve through publishing Relative Strangers?
I hope in writing my adoption and reunion story, I give others the other freedom to talk about theirs, and for them to realise there is no perfect answer. Adoption was the preferred option at the time, and solved a duel problem; infertility and unwanted pregnancies. Although I don’t judge the way it was done – it is what it was – that solution has proved to be harmful for many people; some of whom just cannot move on from their painful experience. Maybe by writing my history, there maybe one or two people who can reconcile their own adoption story.
About the Author
Pip Murdoch was born in Roxburgh and was brought up in Gore. She is a trained nurse, grief counsellor and oncology nurse and she has lived in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Sydney, Canberra, Washington DC. She is married with three adult children and seven grandchildren.
Pip enjoys writing, golf, bridge and gardening. She currently lives in Wellington. Relative Strangers is her first book.
Pip Murdoch has written a searingly honest memoir about growing up in the 1960s
‘Pip Murdoch has written a searingly honest memoir about growing up in the 1960s and what it was like to give up a child for adoption, in the face of limited choices and moral disapproval of unmarried mothers. The search for her son, years after his birth, is a poignant, often heartbreaking account of a search that reads like a page-turning detective story.
Anyone who has been affected by the adoption triangle, and there are many of us in New Zealand, will find this a compulsive read, and be touched by its compassionate approach to every aspect of the process and the people involved, whether it be the adoptee, birth parents, or adoptive parents, and the legacy of the practice. Above all, it is an extraordinary and vivid testament to an era.’
~ Dame Fiona Kidman
Published by Your Books on Fern Publishing, 28 August 2019, RRP $29.90