Barnes and Noble: 4.6/5
(According to Barnes and Noble)
The classic story of life in Apartheid South Africa.
Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa’s most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.
This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered “Kaffir” from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do — he escaped to tell about it.
This story is unique because, among other things, it is a memoir of someone who was actually there at the time of apartheid in South Africa. The story is of Mark Mathabane’s early life in Alexandra, a black township in South Africa. As a boy, his dream was to leave the squalor of his neighborhood – one rife with violence and suffering. In young Mark’s eyes the only way to do so was through hard work and education, and he had absolute faith in these things. This point of view is encouraged by his mother and grandmother yet discouraged by his father, a man of tribal beliefs.
We get to see how this young man realizes his dreams (I’m sorry, but since I do not want to spoil it for you, I will not elaborate on just how that happens). A book with a satisfying end as you will see, but one that reminds us of a past most of us do not want to acknowledge and try to forget is actually history.
While it is true that Mark Mathabane’s strength and determination contributed to the realization of his dreams, it is important to remember that this was not the case for all of his contemporaries. Not all who did their best turned out how he did. All the same, it is a bit encouraging to see how he turned out, isn’t it?
Those of you who found this book a good read will be pleased to know that Mark Mathabane did write a sequel (if we are being technical, then this book is more like the first of a trilogy). So, after reading this book, you can go on to Kaffir Boy in America: An Encounter with Apartheid which is about his encounters in the United States after being rescued from apartheid. And, if after reading you find you have not had your fill of Mark Mathabane, then move on to Love in Black And White: The Triumph of Love over Prejudice and Taboo, which is co-written by Mathabane and his Caucasian wife.
And, as a bonus, here is a link to more books like Kaffir boy, which includes one written by Desmond Tutu:
AFRICAN NOVELS REVIEWS