Paula Gruben is a writer living in Johannesburg, South Africa.
She was put up for adoption as a newborn in 1974, under the highly secretive closed adoption system, which was common practice for young, unwed mothers at the time.
Paula had a happy, carefree childhood, but knowing virtually nothing about her biological roots resulted in a crippling identity crisis during her teenage years, manifesting in all forms of anti-social and self-destructive behaviour, and ultimately a deeply dysfunctional relationship with her adoptive parents.
When she turned 21 in 1995, Paula was granted access to her file at the Durban Child and Family Welfare Society, which had facilitated the adoption. She met her birth mother shortly thereafter, and her birth father two years later. The seed for writing a book about her remarkable adoption journey was planted, but then life took over.
It was only when faced with the shock of an unplanned pregnancy, just before turning 36 in 2010, that Paula could fully empathise with what both her birth mother and adoptive mother must’ve gone through at the time she entered their lives. The seed started germinating at a frantic pace and, armed with the wisdom of age, Paula knew it was finally time to tell the story.
Umbilicus is her debut novel.