13th April 2001 at 01:00
BLACK PROFILES SERIES. Baroness Scotland of Asthal. By Sue Adler. John Taylor (Lord Taylor of Warwick). By Onyekachi Wambu.

Jim Braithwaite. By Verna Wilkins. Samantha Tross. By Verna Wilkins. Tamarind pound;6.99 each.

When this excellent series was launched in 1999 with the lives of Malorie Blackman and Benjamin Zephaniah, it was clear that Verna Wilkins had made a deliberate and timely decision to move beyond the conventional confines of sport and popular music. By featuring writers, the biographies made it clear that aspiration for black Britons should be a matter of vision and willpower.

The new volumes develop that theme more eloquently. Though love of cricket, football, calypso and rhythm and blues all play a role in the leisure time of their subjects, far more emphasis is given to the overcoming of obstacles, the acquisition of educational qualifications, the backing of family and the sustaining power of faith.

Based on a series of in-depth interviews, the books show how some remarkable men and women still treasure memories of teir childhoods to nourish their achievements as adults.

Patricia Scotland had to keep pushing at half-closed doors before she could become a barrister in a world dominated by white men. Now a QC, government minister and mother of two boys, she speaks thoughtfully about the inappropriate description of her as an exception. Her childhood was ordinary; her advantage of having supportive parents is one she wishes for countless other youngsters. One-time parliamentary candidate John Taylor had a stricter and less overtly affectionate father. The stories deal with emotional complexities that prevent them from becoming Pollyana-ish in tone.

Jim Braithwaite, who runs several successful communications companies, and Samantha Tross, a surgeon, tell of work that touches many people's lives. Samantha Tross lays stress on the need for leadership and teamwork in her chosen profession. Jim Braithwaite emphasises that despite his notable success he is still learning. His message should go out into schools: It's cool to be smart.

Tom Deveson

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