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I had been looking forward to reading Melanie B's autobiography Catch A Fire for some time. She'd always had a lot to say
for herself and I knew that it wouldn't be long before some publisher capitalised on it. I'd been waiting
for the hype but none came.Instead of hitting the shops with a bang, there was hardly a whimper of interest.
Catch A Fire looked good on the outside and at £17.99 it needed to. The photographs front and back show a
woman who looks at peace with herself. Inside, the pages reveal a roller-coaster ride to awareness that she
must be still reeling from. Although the family was working-class, Melanie managed to have a privileged
life with regular dance classes and caravan holidays, something some of us could only dream about when we were
young. What Melanie is blessed with is a strong mother who is determined to see her daughters succeed in life.
She manages to add some balance to her husband’s somewhat stricter parenting.
Melanie clearly had a very balanced upbringing and was encouraged to get to know both sides of her heritage.
The wonderful thing is that now both sides of her heritage are able to appreciate her contribution to society.
Some people may not yet see this because the Spice Girl image may seem silly and girlie. Apart from the
Wannabe track which I thought was fun, I was never really a Spice Girl fan myself. If you look at the bigger
picture though, it did do something in that it made a working-class mixed-race girl from Leeds a household name.
That counts for something, it puts Melanie in a position to make a difference. She still has a lot of growing up
to do but if this autobiography is anything to go by, the process has already begun.
Catch A Fire is not a wonderful book; sometimes it's work to keep up but it is frank and honest. I cringe for her as she makes
her mistakes and I'm harshly reminded that I went through some similare experiences myself though without the public watching.
There’s not a lot in Catch a Fire about being mixed-race but why should there be? It's obvious that Melanie B is
about much more than the box they try to fit her into. There are however several moments that many mixed-race
individuals will recognise as classic experiences.