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Publisher's Summary

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.

Mark Mathabane was born and raised in the ghetto of Alexandra in South Africa. He is the author of Kaffir Boy, Kaffir Boy in America, Love in Black and White, African Women: Three Generations, Miriam’s Song, and The Proud Liberal. He lectures at schools and colleges nationwide on race relations, education, and our common humanity. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

©1986 Mark Mathabane (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Like…Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land.… In every way as important and exciting.” (Washington Post)
“This is a rare look inside the festering adobe shanties of Alexandra, one of South Africa’s notorious black townships. Rare because it comes…from the heart of a passionate young African who grew up there.” (Chicago Tribune)
“In this powerful account of growing up black in South Africa, a young writer makes us feel intensely the horrors of apartheid.” (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • ARM
  • Colorado Springs, CO, US
  • 10-07-16

Tragic yet we'll written

this is the most difficult review I've had to write. it was not easy to accompany the author through the horrors of his own childhood; the seemingly insurmountable obstacles he and his family faced; his persistence; his eventual success and yet the sacrifice of having to leave his family behind knowing the conditions they had to face in order to pursue his dream. Saddest of all, it's another example of man's inhumanity to man; and yet I couldn't stop reading it. My compliments to Mark for having the courage to re live the nightmares onto paper.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful read.

All young South Africans regardless of race need to read this book to provide a context for the events and affairs of the country and people at large.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A gripping true story

A real life story written so you can emotional feel the senseless and appalling apartheid policy in South Africa.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I am a Kaffir Boy!

A truly amazing story, even for a Black South African like me. I'd recommend this to all South Africans, especially those who benefited from Apartheid (directly or indirectly), it goes to show that you can't keep a good man down.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Kaffir Boy

This is the most enlightening book I've ever read and listened to. Mr. Mathabanes reading makes the stories even more amazing. I felt like I was with him from page to page.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Truly an underdog story

Allester T

This book takes you through the full gamut of emotions, But, I couldn't put it down. 1960's and 70's South African life as a black... My goodness

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A must for reader young and old!

Listening to this true story, I was captivated and terrified simultaneously by Mr. Mathabane’s words and voice. This is truly a piece of art through literature that gives the reader a picture of the world so many have ever known of, or (regrettably) cared to know. Kaffir Boy is a piece of critical history that all should read. Without true narratives such as Kaffir Boy, we unfortunately face the continued injustices in the world with no end in sight. Please read this book and spread its message! We must make a difference in our world. Thank you Mr. Mathabane for having the courage to and wisdom to share your story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great read

I've read this book twice.Great take on a young man growing up in South Africa.Growing up poor and learning how to cope with hate and hunger, learning how to survive against all odds.Touching book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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What a life!

Read this after doing a vacation tour group in South Africa. This book really makes you feel like you live in South Africa in the 70's. One of the best books ever.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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my new favorite book

this book deserves to be on the list of mandatory reads at every high school! excellent coming of age story. there needs to be a part two.

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  • Trish Chipman
  • 06-16-15

One of the most inspirational books ever, I was gripped to the very end,

Mark, by reading his own story, gives this book so much passion and authenticity. A great insight into life during the apartheid era! My heart broke for him and his whole family, and for all those who had their freedom and humanity stripped from them, both then and now. Thank you Mark x

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Sugar
  • 11-04-17

amazing must listin

lovely, amazing book about first hand account of living in south africa as a black family in the 80s

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  • Kiki21
  • 03-27-17

Crossing the threshold

Brilliant book - highly recommended. Wonderfully and meaningfully read by the author himself. The story is touching, honest, and inspiring, and for me - deeply meaningful.

As a white Afrikaner woman, born in the mid-seventies to a family in the white suburbs around Durban, this book has been deeply valuable to me. Sixteen years old when Mandela was released, and 18 years old when South Africa's first free and fair elections were held, I have lived my entire adult life under a cloud of guilt, and too frightened to learn more how bad things really were during Apartheid - a system from which I benefited so much, particularly in terms of my government schooling and my family's ability to support my
What touched me about this book is that, despite all the suffering experienced by Mark Mathabane and his family, he makes it clear that the highly sophisticated Apartheid machine, with its finely tuned capacity for propaganda and outright lies, cheated both white and black South Africans the opportunity to meet and learn from one another. His openness and forgiving heart gave me the courage to really listen, to really hear and understand how it felt to live on the other side of the high security compounds in which whites locked themselves.

And that is what this book has done for me - allowing me to leave shame behind and move forward with an understanding and open heart.

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  • CFye
  • 03-19-16

Long but worthwhile listen

Excellent story. Sometimes hard to listen to, I find the directness rewarding, and although there's no softening of the facts, it's less gruesome than much fiction. I listened on 1.25 speed, which may have given it a more urgent feel overall.
Hope the rest of his writing will be available in audiobook format soon.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-12-17

Wonderful!

Moving and heartwarming story of a boy against all the odds. An insightful illustration of the true evil of Apartheid and what black people had to endure.
Mark Mathabane is my hero! Would love to know how all his family are now. A sequel after so many years would be wonderful.

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  • Penny Elverd
  • 09-27-15

brilliant story well written and spoken. remarkabl

A brilliant story. Mark you are a remarkable man to have lived through this struggle.