Kaffir Boy

Wow, can y'all believe it's already June 2?  This week I have been all mixed up on the days due to having Monday off and it didn't even hit me that yesterday was the first of June (i.e. the next monthly installment of African Aspirations).  So today, a day late, will be this month's Africa post.  To read previous "African Aspirations" posts, click here.

I haven't done a book review in a while so I thought today would be perfect to share a good read that also relates to Africa.

Back in high school, Kaffir Boy, an autobiography by Mark Mathabane was assigned as summer reading for my Contemporary World Affairs class.

In the poignant work, Mathabane shares the story of his life growing up black in the era of South African apartheid.  "Kaffir" is a derogatory term for blacks used in South Africa and this widely published autobiography opened much of the world's eyes up to the injustices of apartheid, or racial segregation.

The book opens with a raid of Mathabane's home when he is five.  His father is dragged out of their home by the police and forced to endure harsh labor as punishment for previous crimes (such as failing to pay a poll tax).  His father's absence leads to a life of hunger, foraging, and violence.

Despite his adversity, he promises his mother he will become educated and becomes a top student.  Additionally, when his grandmother begins working as a maid for a white family, opportunities arise for Mark.  He is introduced to the world of tennis through this white family and over the years he becomes a strong tennis player.  He is invited to play at the exclusive Tennis Ranch illegally and through his tennis achievements he is able to induce change.  


I read this book so long ago that many of its details are no longer fresh in my mind, but I will never forget the emotional response I had to the story.  Mathabane writes in a descriptive and highly articulate manner that will pull readers in and leave them more aware and responsive to injustices in the world.  

I highly recommend reading Kaffir Boy.  Its messages are still relevant, particularly because apartheid was not ended in South Africa until 1994 and its effects still resonate within the culture of the region today.  

To learn more about this issue today, click here.

Have any of you read or heard of Kaffir Boy?  If so, what were your reactions?  If not, is this a book you would consider reading?  Do you have any suggestions of similar books?