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Susan Newham-Blake Launches Making Finn with Margie Orford at The Book Lounge

Susan Newham-Blake

The feel good factor ran high at The Book Lounge last week, where a throng of friends, family and eager readers gathered for the launch of Making Finn by Susan Newham-Blake. The author shared the riveting account of her journey to motherhood, with her partner, Roxi. A hilarious conversation with crime writer Margie Orford meant that many were wiping away tears of mirth and tenderness on this remarkable evening.

Margie Orford and Susan Newham-Blake Susan and Roxi Newham-Blake

Newham-Blake spoke with candour about the conflict she’d felt on realising that she had feelings for women. “I didn’t feel how I thought a gay woman would feel… I wanted to have a family, have babies. That was part of my own internalised homophobia, coming from the society we live in.”

Making FinnShe talked about her fear that becoming gay meant she had to give up becoming a parent, which she couldn’t relinquish. She asked herself, “What does it feel like to be gay in the world? Let me give it a go. Having done that, I haven’t looked back. Being more true to yourself, you start making plans about having children because the desire to be a parent doesn’t go away.”

With equal candour, Orford thrust into the tricky territory of conception: “If the quit-the-contraceptives-time-the-ovulation-cycle-engage-in-drunken-one-night-stand routine isn’t an option, then with no penis around, how the hell do you make babies?” Looping back to their respective family histories, the audience was regaled with hysterical accounts of feminist mothers and busy fathers and Newham-Blake’s decision to come out at a braai, as Orford noted, “with all that boerewors sizzling on the grid…”

Newham-Blake shared some of the challenges and dilemmas she and her partner had faced. She spoke of the American catalogues they scoured in sourcing a sperm donor, which recorded every ailment suffered by each donor and their extended family, as well as the reasons each donor mentioned for choosing to be a sperm donor. She spoke of her ethical quandary that meant ensuring that her future child might know who his or her biological father is, and the decision to marry so that Roxi would not have to adopt their child.

Lastly, Newham-Blake shared the peculiar difficulties of securing the safe passage of uncontaminated sperm through the South African customs. A particularly poignant moment was a phone call with a “very sweet young customs official called Rio” who, having heard the story in full, paused and said, “But can’t you get that kind of stuff in South Africa?” He then made it his mission to help Newham-Blake, phoning her back and explaining the precise protocols and instructions.

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Liesl Jobson tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

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