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on 28 March 2012
What a wonderful insight into the life of such a remarkable women. Succeeding in a male dominated music industry, after a soul searching trip through adolescence amd beyond seeking her lost identity. Educated, musically talented and then inspired, at first, by some of the least obvious performers of the time. Pauline Black provides a peep-hole into some wonderful behind the scenes musical moments in the world of 2-Tone, as well as her personal, domestic and early, sometimes rebellious life - to present day. Her long-term love of husband Terry also shines through the pages, showing him as someone who has almost silently supported and carried her through good and not so good times. Pauline's energy, curiousity, determination and guts present themselves in every chapter of this book and this has been one of my best reads, for a very long time! I loved it so much I bought several copies as gifts for friends! Check it out - you wont be disappointed! :-)
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on 26 October 2012
This book was a must read for me. The reason being I read an interview with Pauline Black in a national newspaper where she was talking about her experiences of being transracially adopted. I was amazed to find that her experiences mirrored my own. Like me, Pauline Black was adopted as a baby in the UK in the early 1950's then brought up in a white area with no other black or mixed race families in sight. The similarities did not end there. As I did, she traced her natural mother (who was white) to Australia, and managed to trace her black father but alas he was dead before she got a chance to meet him. Because of this, I found the parts of the book dealing with transracial adoption in the 1950's, moving, honest and insightful. There was no blueprint for transracial adoption then and Pauline Black manages to detail her journey in a balanced and clear way of how she forged her identity as a mixed-race person. She was not only able to outline the difference in perspective between the growing transracially adopted child and the rest of its family in the 1950's but also the positives. Like Pauline Black I was loved by my family and have met people who were brought up in care homes in the 1950's and the damage that can be caused being raised in that environment can be irreparable. I also share her view that things are better today with regard to transracial adoption but mistakes are still made in the UK, particularly in rural areas.
I have to say that I was 30 years old when the 2-Tone groups came onto the scene in 1980 with their own brand of fast paced Ska. Like all the 2-Tone bands Pauline Black's band `The Selector' was embraced by a large section of British youth at that time. Because of my age I did not really connect with the energy of the music. In view of this I found myself skipping large sections of the book. However, I do acknowledge that `The Selector's music was coming from a real place. I also felt that at a time when the far right was having a resurgence in Britain, the 2-Tone groups were not only a breath of fresh air but were also a counter-balance to the influence of the far right. This is a book written by an intelligent insightful woman that with hard work has managed to live her life on her own terms. However, in my view, the book's appeal is limited to those who have an interest in the 2-Tone groups, or people that are interested in the history of transracial adoption.
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on 27 October 2011
Being a Yank who was gobsmacked by SKA some years back I have nearly all of The Selecter material on CD. This book is pretty much a revelation as it is straight-up and straight-ahead honest, well written and Pauline pulls no punches and fills in a portrait of the world and time this band and others existed in. I'm sure that before her career is over there will be plenty of material for, at least, one more book of this quality. Thanks for a great read Pauline, and thanks for your part in all the great music.
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on 18 July 2011
This is a MUST HAVE for any 2-Tone fans out there. The Selector and days of 2-Tone records are very well documented within the pages of this book. But, what also makes this book great, is that you get a feeling of what it was like to grow up whilst searching for an identity in Britain during the 1960's and 1970's. Pauline Black's tome takes us back to that time with cultural references and some shocking and moving revelations.
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on 17 July 2011
wether you are a fan of the music or not this book is an eye opening read i recomend to anyone.... your bookshelf is a poorer place without it
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on 17 September 2013
Pauline Black was the lead singer of the late seventies/early eighties ska two-tone band `The Selecter'. This, her biography, is an interesting, engaging and often witty account of her life, from her experience of growing up as an adopted child, to her time at University, to her careers as a radiographer, actress and also as the lead singer of aforementioned band.

It will be of interest in particular to those that have their own experiences of adoption, but also anyone who has an interest in the `two-tone' musical movement of the late seventies and early eighties, but in general, it is such an articulate account of the life of such an inspiring and remarkable individual that it should be enjoyed by anyone who has an appreciation for a well-written life story.

Pauline has a natural writing ability which has shone through both in this book and all of the lyrics she wrote with `The Selecter'. She is frequently witty, and has such a funny way of describing people and events sometimes that there were many moments when I laughed aloud whilst reading this.

But there is sadness here too. She describes the identity issues of an adopted person with ease and poignancy, whilst also touching frequently on the topic of racism, describing all it's different forms, ranging from the flippant, to the insidious, the institutionalised, to the downright bold. For me personally, the stand out event described in this book occurs on page 310. Here, she describes a humiliating encounter with such a spectacularly ignorant individual that it should have any white person with an ounce of conscience cringing with embarrassment. What price for enlightenment?

After reading her life story, I have even more respect for Pauline Black than I did to begin with. She is the definition of a success story, the archetypal `strong woman', from her career in the medical profession, to her dual careers in both acting and singing, to her marriage, and the struggle to finally come to terms with her identity by tracking down her birth mother and half-siblings. Her tenacity, wit, strength, perseverance and talent have ensured that this reader now ranks her among her favourite lead singers. `Black By Design' now fits easily into my top five music biographies.
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on 23 October 2011
I was attracted to this book because of a review in the Guardian. I was a fan of ska music but wasn't aware of Pauline Black or Selecter in a big way. I owned a Specials `Best Of' CD. That was my stand point before I read this book.

I identified heavily with being mixed race growing up in a white society. I understood the growing sense of injustice that you feel at moronic, xenophobic unintelligent attitudes; the frustration of being marginalized for no adequate reason; with feeling subhuman because of being twisted by other people's ignorance and lack of humanness. It was so heart-warming to feel that it wasn't a unique experience. I felt sisterhood with the author instantly.

This transcends age as prejudice and racism still and always has existed.

Her objective understanding of her situation that I know she learnt in hard and brutal painful way identifies her as astute, intelligent person with great mental and emotional strength.

It created a very reflective mindset. It was emotive and often painful to read but I felt necessary.

Her politics remain through the book and this gives you a continued respect for her.
Young women should read this and be inspired to take their own direction and see how much you can experience. Her writing is intelligent and honest.

`Black by Design' is a massively inspiring book that I couldn't part with.

Reading this book drew my focus to experiencing The Selecter live and that far exceeded my already high expectation.
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on 11 January 2012
what an awesome read, been to many of there gigs over the years, and most recently saw them at Bristol,Bridport,Glos and due to see her in Exeter this week.I didnt realise what a hard time she realy had Growing up and just how much Terry had to put up with too (no offence PB)YET She has written about this with nothing to hide, a must for any fan of the 2tone era, past present and future....well done Pauline.
RIVETING couldnt put it down!!!!!
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on 18 November 2013
I was slightly apprehensive about this book; as I thought there won't be too much to be said about the Selector years (well the first band) who were only around in 79/80, but her whole life story turned out to be really fascinating. Maybe this was because the backdrop of growing up in London only a few years before I did meant I could relate to the life described; a world that was very different to now.

It was interesting to look back at the SKA movement, which came and went so quickly; but was notable for being the first movement to blend black and white music and racially diverse bands. The story of the 'Two Tone' tour with the Specials, Selector and Madness seem to contain enough drama for a period film to be made in the future; with the backdrop of the race riots and rise of the right wing in the UK.

But the most poignant elements were the not the music or acting stories, but her search for an identity. This is what made me enjoy the book most; and I was glad Pauline's personal life reached a happy resolution; as at some points I felt the search would not bring the result she wanted.

I also didn't know the Selector were still playing; so will try and catch them in 2014.
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on 12 October 2014
I heard Pauline being interviewed on radio and thought what an intelligent, perceptive woman she sounded to be and what an unusual upbringing she had had and then by coincidence she was mentioned in my local paper so I resolved to find out more about her, and I was not disappointed by her autobiography. I foresee an even brighter future for her, perhaps even becoming Baroness Pauline Black!
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