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Kaffir Boy
Mark Mathabane
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Kaffir Boy

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  9,945 ratings  ·  560 reviews
Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto. Yet Mark did what no physically and psychologically battered "Kaffir" was supposed to dohe escaped to tell about it.
Mass Market Paperback
Published by Signet Book (first published 1986)
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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 ban...which 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 t ...more
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 ...more
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 triba
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 ...more
Kara Murphy
Ms Houseman
World Lit

Mark Mathabane
Kaffir Boy
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007
354 pp. $15.00

“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 great de
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, sadness...something 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 b ...more
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 ...more
Thomas Armstrong
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 ...more
Patricia Douglas
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 ...more
Sarah Rahim
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 couldn’ ...more
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
Kelsey Hanson
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 ...more
Autobiografický příběh hlavního hrdiny, jehož originální jméno je Johannes, vypráví příběh dospívání v Jižní Africe v 60.letech minulého století. Johannes, nejstarší k šesti sourozenců, vyrůstá v prostředí chudoby a strachu z policejních prohlídek, zabíjení a rasové diskriminace. Příběh začíná, když je hlavnímu hrdinovi pouhých pět let. Jeho matka roky nemohla najít práci, jeho otec i to málo co vydělal, prohrál nebo utratil za alkohol. Děti neměly ani oblečení, kolikrát žádné jídlo, museli chod ...more
Shane Zimmer
I picked this up spontaneously at a used book store, consciously ignoring my aversion to the good-intentioned but also condescending trendiness of post-colonial African stories. I was glad I did because Mathabane’s account is interesting and touching and everything you would imagine a story about poverty and oppression would be. It is interesting too because it discusses a little about the politics of apartheid in South Africa and the mechanisms used to support apartheid were not very different ...more
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
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 ...more
Jean Paul
Jan 30, 2014 Jean Paul is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Kaffir Boy is a tremendous book, I enjoyed reading because, it shows how far the Author had to come from, and how he utilized his struggles to strive for greatness, I learned a lot about life, and especially how things were in South Africa. The book is an amazing way to educate yourself with knowledge about life, struggles, and how to overcome childhood obstacles. Its an amazing book, and the author used language that can be easy to be understood, easy to read, and he keeps it very interesting. ...more
Mark's story of his journey towards freedom was amazing. Now, my eyes did glaze over as he told about tennis tournaments, but I loved his journey.

never before had I realized just how similar the fight of the Black American and the Black South African were. The sense of hopelessness during civil rights came alive for me as I finished each page.

I felt connected to the author as he told of his feelings at being labeled as a traitor to his people for his association with white people. I used to ha
What was it like to grow up in South Africa in the Apartheid of the sixties? Mark Mathabane survived and was able to get to America, get educated , and become a productive member of society. Millions of others never made it. And even to this day, many blacks still are unable to break the remaining bonds of Apartheid.....even in modern South Africa.
There are many books where one will say they really enjoyed reading it but I can't use the word 'enjoyed' when reviewing this book and yet....This w
Quite simply one of the best books I’ve ever read about the Apartheid era of South Africa!

Mark Montabane paints a staggering picture of just how downtrodden blacks were under Apartheid. Growing up in the Alexandra township, the author steps us through his life, from the time he was very young through his high school years. The extent to which blacks were neutralized and stripped of their rights seems almost unbelievable at times. What is most amazing is that the author never quits and always man
It never ceases to amaze me that when writers tell their life stories, starting from the age of 5, they can remember details so thoroughly. But, regardless of that, this book was very powerful. And very painful to experience as well. It is so hard to read, and see in one's mind, the horrific details of the lives the people experienced in the ghettos of South Africa. The cruel ways in which they were treated their whole lives is really unforgivable. Why the "revolution" didn't start years before ...more
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.
Mindy McAdams
The first half (or maybe two-thirds) was much more interesting than the last part of the book, where the author seems to be dragging things out as he waits and hopes to get a scholarship to a U.S. university. As tennis became more prominent in the book -- as part of the author's plan to escape apartheid South Africa -- my interest waned.

That said, I was very interested in the story from the beginning up until after the account of the Soweto riots of 1976, when black schoolchildren were massacred
This is a reread from when I first read this book in college. I remembered it being very good then, and I found it even more insightful now. In the years since my first turn with Kaffir Boy, I have visited South Africa twice (specifically Cape Town) and visited and worked in the townships. Even 24 years after the fall of apartheid, its scars are obvious and very real. Traveling through apartheid South Africa at the height of its barbarity with the youthful Mathabane is a lesson not only in bruta ...more
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.
Fausto Betances
Insightful story of the trials and tribulations black people had to endure during Apartheid.

I got to this book after reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris and couldn't help to draw parallels between the two protagonists. While both stories developed in distinctly different timeframes one can still toy with the idea of compering these two strong headed personalities.

Scarce personality traits like strong will, drive, brains and physical talents were common to both characters. Sad
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.
An amazing story. Although I had read or encountered descriptions of life in South African ghettos during Apartheid, this book truly brought life in these communities to life.

Yes, the writing near the end became preachy and verbose (as other reviewers have noted), but this book is so important to understanding the black African psyche during Apartheid that it should be required reading.

This powerful autobiography shows the power of education and faith, intertwined with the elasticity of the sp
Andreoletti Ryan
Mark Mathabane grew up in a small town in Africa with a strong mother and an abusive father and many siblings. Through his hard struggles and having to see bad things, he grew up to become a graduated black person from Africa. He was into tennis a lot and on several occasions met and trained with pros. He made the best of what little he had. I admire him for this because I often take things for granted. This book has taught me to look for the good things in life, but don't forget to help the bad ...more
I read this years ago, and I still think about him...
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Getting Started 13 25 Aug 10, 2013 12:00PM  
Around the World ...: Kimberly Recommends Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane 1 7 Jan 04, 2012 04:32PM  
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Mark Mathabane (born Johannes Mathabane) is an author, lecturer, and former collegiate tennis player.

Dr. Mathabane touched the hearts of millions with his sensational autobiography "Kaffir Boy." Telling the true story of his coming of age under apartheid in South Africa, the book won a prestigious Christopher Award, rose to No. 3 on The New York Times best-sellers list and to No. 1 on the Washingt
More about Mark Mathabane...
Kaffir Boy in America: An Encounter with Apartheid Miriam's Song: A Memoir Love in Black and White: The Triumph of Love over Prejudice and Taboo African Women: Three Generations Kaffir Boy: And Related Readings (Literature Connections) (Literature connections)

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“I think my mother's and Granny's storytelling had had the same effect upon me when a child, as the reading of books: my mind was stimulated, my creativity encouraged.” 8 likes
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