- By Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

  • Title: Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
  • Author: Mark Mathabane
  • ISBN: 9780452264717
  • Page: 356
  • Format: Paperback
  • Kaffir Boy The True Story of a Black Youth s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa I am always asked to explain what it felt like to grow up black under South Africa s system of legalized racism known as apartheid and how I escaped from it and ended up in America This book is the m

    I am always asked to explain what it felt like to grow up black under South Africa s system of legalized racism known as apartheid, and how I escaped from it and ended up in America This book is the most thorough answer I have heretofore given The last thing I ever dreamed of when I was daily battling for survival and for an identity other than that of inferiority and foI am always asked to explain what it felt like to grow up black under South Africa s system of legalized racism known as apartheid, and how I escaped from it and ended up in America This book is the most thorough answer I have heretofore given The last thing I ever dreamed of when I was daily battling for survival and for an identity other than that of inferiority and fourth class citizen, which apartheid foisted on me, was that someday I would attend an American college, edit its newspaper, graduate with honors, practise journalism and write a book.How could I have dreamed of all this when I was born of illiterate parents who could not afford to pay my way through school, let alone pay the rent for our shack and put enough food on the table when black people in Alexandra lived under constant police terror and the threat of deportation to impoverished tribal reserves when at ten I contemplated suicide because I found the burden of living in a ghetto, poverty stricken and without hope, too heavy to shoulder when in 1976 I got deeply involved in the Soweto protests, in which hundreds of black students were killed by the police, and thousands fled the country to escape imprisonment and torture In Kaffir Boy I have re created, as best as I can remember, all these experiences I have sought to paint a portrait of my childhood and youth in Alexandra, a black ghetto of Johannesburg, where I was born and lived for eighteen years, with the hope that the rest of the world will finally understand why apartheid cannot be reformed it has to be abolished.Much has been written and spoken about the politics of apartheid the forced removals of black communities from theirancestral lands, the Influx Control and Pass laws that mandate where blacks can live, work, raise families, be buried the migrant labour system that forces black men to live away from their families eleven months out of a year the breaking up of black families in the ghettos as the authorities seek to create a so called white South Africa the brutal suppression of the black majority as it agitates for equal rights But what does it all mean in human terms When I was growing up in Alexandra it meant hate, bitterness, hunger, pain, terror, violence, fear, dashed hopes and dreams Today it still means the same for millions of black children who are trapped in the ghettos of South Africa, in a lingering nightmare of a racial system that in many respects resembles Nazism In the ghettos black children fight for survival from the moment they are born They take to hating and fearing the police, soldiers and authorities as a baby takes to its mother s breast.In my childhood these enforcers of white prerogatives and whims represented a sinister force capable of crushing me at will of making my parents flee in the dead of night to escape arrest under the Pass laws of marching them naked out of bed because they did not have the permit allowing them to live as husband and wife under the same roof They turned my father by repeatedly arresting him and denying him the right to earn a living in a way that gave him dignity into such a bitter man that, as he fiercely but in vain resisted the emasculation, he hurt those he loved the most.The movies, with their lurid descriptions of white violence, reinforced this image of white terror and power Often the products of abjectpoverty and broken homes, many black children, for whom education is inferior and not compulsory, have been derailed by movies into the dead end life of crime and violence It is no wonder that black ghettos have one of the highest murder rates in the world, and South African prisons are among the most packed It was purely by accident that I did not end up a tsotsi thug, mugger, gangster It was no coincidence that, until the age of ten, I refused to set foot in the white world.The turning point came when one day in my eleventh year I accompanied my grandmother to her gardening job and met a white family that did not fit the stereotypes I had grown up with Most blacks, exposed daily to virulent racism and dehumanized and embittered by it, do not believe that such whites exist From this family I started receiving illegal books like Treasure Island and David Copperfield, which revealed a different reality and marked the beginning of my revolt against Bantu education s attempts to proscribe the limits of my aspirations and determine my place in South African life.At thirteen I stumbled across tennis, a sport so white most blacks thought I was mad for thinking I could excel in it others mistook me for an Uncle Tom Through tennis I learned the important lesson that South Africa s 4.5 million whites are not all racists As I grew older, and got to understand them their fears, longings, hop

    1 thought on “Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

    1. Wow-this is an eye opening book. Mark Mathabane writes of his life as a Black boy in South Africa during Apartheid. I had no idea what went on during that era (and sadly some of what went on then, is probably still happening now). i found this book listed on a list of books that people want to banwhich means that I should probably read them. After reading it, I'm not sure why anyone would want to ban it. I think everyone should read it. It is HISTORY and a reality that perhaps we don't want to f [...]

    2. It is always hard to write a fair review about a book where you've fallen out with the protagonist, who, by the end of the book, I found mildly irritating and preachy. I am in two minds about this book which on the one hand I found insightful and revealing, but on the other, tediously introspective and lacking in realism. That's not to say that I don't buy into the representation of SA that Mathabane puts forward, it is simply that the book is written, intentionally or otherwise, in a childish m [...]

    3. This is a stark autobiography of a young boy growing up in a ghetto in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s and 70s. The narrative vividly describes apartheid and the unbearable conditions its laws inflicted on blacks: racism, extreme poverty, constant hunger, brutality, constant fear and intimidation.Matabane’s teenage dream to get out of the ghetto faced almost impossible odds. In addition to the conditions under apartheid, he also had to contend with his father’s violent personality, his t [...]

    4. Kara MurphyMs HousemanWorld Lit 5/5/08Mark MathabaneKaffir BoyNew York: Simon & Schuster, 2007354 pp. $15.00978-0-684-84828-0 “Let us not rest until we are free to live in dignity in the land of our birth.”(Mark Mathabane) Mark Mathabane dedicates this quote in his autobiography (Kaffir Boy) to the people in South Africa for the struggle and fight for freedom. The autobiography shows the cruel punishment black South Africans suffer from white South Africans in the 1950’s, getting in gr [...]

    5. I picked this book off of the free shelf at the library and got exactly what I expected: An introspective look into black life during apartheid. While interesting, if you know anything about apartheid, the information will not come as a surprise. It's uplifting to think that this man made it out so well, but I wish he would have added a postscript at the end, letting us know about what happened to the rest of his family. All I could think of at the end of the book was about how much I wondered h [...]

    6. This book is beautiful in its tragic solemnity, in some ways a breed apart from other books written on the subject. After reading, I closed it and sighed heftily. A sigh from what? I'm not sure: relief, understanding, sadnessmething that made me sit in silent thought for a few minutes. Here is the firsthand account of a young boy who comes of age in the slums of Alexandra, apartheid South Africa, during the 1960s, during an era when the brutality of apartheid was not yet acknowledged. The book u [...]

    7. This book is my favorite so far. I fell in love with Mark Mathabane. I fell in love with his resilience, his strength, his continuous belief in himself as a black man, and his struggle against the disgusting system of Apartheid in South Africa. Throughout the book, Mark refuses to believe what the white man affirms of him. On the contrary, he believes in his intelligence and his strength to fight the struggle and improve the lives of blacks. I could not put the book down. Regardless of his justi [...]

    8. I usually don't go for biography type books, but a couple pages out of this one was mandatory in one of my history classes. Honestly, I thought I was going to be so bored with it, but after I had read only a couple pages, I was hooked. So I decided to read the entire novel which was a fantastic idea because it was really worth it.You can't really begin to understand the challenges of life for people in apartheid South Africa unless you witness it first hand. Mark Mathabane, the main character of [...]

    9. There is no reason to forget the horrible atrocities of apartheid, and this book truly will open your eyes to a society that is indifferent to differences and creates second class citizens in their own homeland. If you do not know anything about the subject, this book will serve as a complete eye-opener and education on what the average young family had to go through in Africa in a painful history that did not happen very long ago. Killing gangs, youth prostitution, and lack of clean water, food [...]

    10. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of South Africa from 2009-2011, so when I read this book, I felt as if I were living behind the eyes of one of my kids I worked with during that time. In a country with so much beauty and diversity, abject poverty and opulent wealth live right next door to each other sometimes. This is one of the dichotomies that makes South Africa the rainbow nation it claims to be. Race relations, haves and have nots, these things come to a head on a daily ba [...]

    11. Wow. This book was really an eye-opener. Before I read this, I didn't really know anything about the apartheid. This book was outrageous, but in a good way. It makes you want to go do something about the issues raised. Overall, an excellent read. The author does a good job of including important incidents that help you get inside his everyday life. By the time you get to the end, you will be rooting for this guy to succeed.

    12. The first portion of this book was incredibly powerful; the second, even more so. However, the third and final portion (Passport to Freedom) - although ending on a bittersweet note, seemed like a big stretch, considering the life Johannes started out living. I usually love stories of 'the underdog'. I watch sports movies, for example, and you can bet that 95% of those movies succeed in making me root for the 'underdog' team, or the kid with the odds stacked against him. But while I felt for Joha [...]

    13. This is, undeniably, a disturbing book, and some parents have objected to its use as a teaching tool at the High School level. I used it in a class on “The World After 1945” at the University level and found it very effective. It engages the students with a period in history many of them have only vaguely heard about, but which engaged my generation with a sense of international responsibility. Being anti-apartheid was one of the most effective activist rallying cries of the 1980s, and it re [...]

    14. I'm going to South Africa next week and so I'm preparing myself with a variety of ''you must read'' books about the country. After reading a history of apartheid, this book gave it a human perspective for me. Reading this book showed me how all those damnable laws that happened at the top of the elite white hierarchy in South Africa affected the powerless millions of non-whites at the bottom. Mathabane writes eloquently about his growing up in the midst of poverty, violence, disease, conflict, a [...]

    15. I thought that Kaffir boy was an eye-opening book as well. I had never herd about apartheid until I read this book and realized what had happened in South Africa years ago. It had vivid detailed throughout the book that the reader could really imagine. In a lot of parts throughout this book there were a lot suspense when I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen during the raids but at the same time I was putting myself in Johannes (the main characters) shoes and I felt horrible. I could [...]

    16. Kaffir Boy provided me with a much needed education about apartheid. I will never understand how people can so savagely treat other human beings. Mark is a survivor in a world that seems impossible to survive. Apartheid and those who endorsed it are repulsive, but sadly are among those who repress others out of fear, ignorance, or some purported religious belief. Kaffir Boy was difficult to read and made me ashamed of fellow humans. Mark is also inspiring in his ability to strive for something b [...]

    17. I wanted to like this book, but that's a tall order. The author comes across as annoying, preachy, and selfish. Certainly, there are revealing details of life in apartheid South Africa, and we should know these truths. Yet, his self-involvement becomes quite grating at times; his siblings, for instance, are portrayed as purely one-dimensional characters.Mathabane describes his early years in minute detail, and also recounts conversations as if they were recorded, and these affectations cause me [...]

    18. As someone who has only a bare basics knowledge of the mechanics of apartheid, this book was definitely eye-opening. This book is both inspiring and heatbreaking. It also gives a lot of insight into major global issues like poverty and racism and the factors that feed these issues like education, birth control (or lacktherof) and tribal traditions. This book was quite moving and I think it's timely that I read it in 2015. It gives a certain amount of insight into racial issues and allows me to l [...]

    19. This book was rather interesting. It was mostly boring and black and white for most of it, some parts were interesting and entertaining but it wasn't a good book for high schoolers and younger teens. Some parts were easily exaggerated and it is remarkable how he remembers all these moments when he was 5 or 7 years old in such detail.

    20. I loved this book. I read it when I was 13 and just starting to get intrested in my South African roots. It's amazing yes it was an autbiography but it felt even more personal it felt like I was reading his diary.

    21. Horrifyingly graphic view of the world of apartheid. It was hard to keep reading, but it is an important book.

    22. Inspiring and phenomenal. You feel like you're going through life with Mark (Johannes). Graphic at times so I recommend to ages 14 and up.

    23. A very disturbing and moving account of growing up black and extremely poor in the township (ghetto) of Alexandra near Johannesburg in South Africa. The brutality is of a magnitude that hardly seems survivable, and the point is that many black people don't survive it. The great majority of this brutality is committed black against black, but the whole system was set up and orchestrated by the former white founders and leaders and the then current government of apartheid South Africa. The aparthe [...]

    24. "Kaffir Boy" was written in the late 80's. Realized - in planning a trip to South Africa, that we had the book on our shelves. It was and apparently still is, on many high school English required reading lists. It is a true report of what growing up under apartheid was like for Blacks.Mark was the oldest of 7 children born to an overworked mother who wanted her children to have an education - and a father who still believed in the tribal ways of raising children, being a husband and existing und [...]

    25. Inspiring and Thought-ProvokingThe book Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane is about a family living in the ghetto of South Africa. The main character is Mark who lives with his 3-year-old sister Florah and his Mom and Dad. The family goes through some rough times living in South Africa because of constant police raids and the dirty and rat-filled streets. Mark and his family have trouble with money so they open up a small beer business in their home to make enough to support the family. Mark was later [...]

    26. 2017 Reading Challenge - A book by an author from a country you've never visited.I have to respect the fact that Mark Mathabane saw the importance on shedding light on the inner lives and day to day realities for Black South Africans living under Apartheid in the 1960s and 70s. However this his account was also chaffing for several reasons. In his earlier life, his descriptions of home life and his father in particular were so extreme and dehumanizing, in that he showed no compassion or understa [...]

    27. Kaffir Boy was a fascinating and emotional read. I had heard about apartheid and knew that racism existed (and still exists today) in South Africa, but I didn't know how oppressive and terrible it was. It was heartbreaking and devastating to read what Mark Mathabane experienced growing up, and it made me very grateful for the life I have and for many things (like food and running water) that I may take for granted.I love any story that features an underdog. In this book, Mark faced many obstacle [...]

    28. This is a powerful autobiographical account of what life was like for a young black boy living in the ghetto under the apartheid regime in South Africa, with literally every odd stacked up against him. I spent the majority of this book shaking my head in disbelief at the godawful reality that so many black families had to endure during this time. Violence, hate, hunger, poverty, ignorance, and death were the building blocks of life for the majority of blacks during apartheid. This book sheds lig [...]

    29. I feel slightly embarrassed that until now I knew almost nothing about the apartheid. I decided to pick this book up to read in honor of Black History Month.Part 1, in which he describes his younger years, was really hard for me to get through. It was strange for me to discover that there were injustices still occurring that were far worse than the state in America and I was disgusted by the way blacks in South Africa were treated.I’m so happy that I read this and heard a perspective I didn’ [...]

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