BLACK by DESIGN, a 2-Tone Memoir – Pauline Black
(image from http://marcoonthebass)
184668790X Serpent’s Tail (14 July 2011) RPP £12.99
The immediate response on beginning the reading of this memoir is that Pauline Black is having an intimate conversation with me. The different facets of her personality seem so evident on the page in such a lively way, I could be forgiven for thinking that we’d just spent a couple of hours chatting.
I missed out on 2-Tone music but have now gained knowledge about what it was like to be a) a female vocalist in a ska band, b) a predominantly black ska band in a predominantly white industry, c) behind the scenes in the music industry, which is quite unglamorous. My lack of knowledge about the music did not hamper my enjoyment of the book.
This memoir is split into three sections and takes the reader on Pauline’s journey from childhood to the present day. Section one tells us about her childhood, section two is the band days and section three reveals how she searches for her birth parents.
She writes in a poetic, literary way that is refreshing for a memoir. Adopted by a white family, she tells us about her difficulties, but also about the love of her family. There is no pitying voice that can so often accompany the revelations that Pauline makes. She is matter of fact, stating it as it was without rancor. There are points when she could have easily descended to sensationalism as memoirs often do, but Pauline doesn’t go there.
She does, however, become fired up about her politics at times, both race and gender, and it’s refreshing to read. The first time it happened I wasn’t so sure, but it goes with the overall tone of the book and the whole sentiment of The Selecter. The difference between this memoir and others is that Pauline is on the whole measured about what she tells us. There is a large amount of hindsight added to the mix, which takes the emotional edge from the telling. This is what lends to the poetics of her writing.
We are taken on the journey of the rise to fame for The Selecter, the almost incidental way in which it happened. Pauline has done so much more in her career though, acting and presenting, both of which enabled her to stay true to her political standing.
If there is any criticism it would be that I wanted more details about her personal life with her husband Terry. I found I was trying to read behind the scenes about what was really happening between them. On second thoughts, this isn’t a criticism but a testament to the way in which she writes. There were times I forgot it was a memoir and read it as though it was a novel. I can recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read whether they were into 2-Tone or not. It works well on a lot of levels and tells an excellent story in a refreshing manner.
Part 1 Tutor, Creative Writing