Kaffir Boy

The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
Narrated by: Mark Mathabane
Length: 18 hrs and 33 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (295 ratings)

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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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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.

7 people found this 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.

4 people found this 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.

3 people found this 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.

3 people found this 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.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

2 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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Touching true story

Mark's story is sad and beautiful. He tells his story of his struggles and triumph's in a difficult time in South Africa. He read it so well that I felt pulled into his world!

1 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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  • Trish
  • 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 people found this helpful

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  • Ivan
  • 06-14-19

Deep illustration of apartheid

Was taught about apartheid while in primary and secondary school in uganda. I have read Mandela's long walk to freedom and it gave a political view and to some extent a common man's view. This gave an account of the suffering of a common person starting at the bottom of the pyramid. Highly recommend this to anyone.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-19-18

Kaffir Boy

Having lived in South Africa during Apartheid I found the book was a true reflection of those times. Very sad.

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  • CHIDI EMMANUEL IZUNWANNE
  • 04-01-18

Great story, well told

The story of a boy and a nation who had darkness brought upon their world by a people, but whose total destruction was also prevented by the generosity of other people.

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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 that paid for primary and secondary schools on par with the best UK private schools have to offer, and which I took for granted.

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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-21-20

Truth or Dare

Beautifully written and narrated with emotion to emphasis the different tones and emotions. No unnecessary embellishments - the truth right into the core.

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  • Jenny Campbell
  • 03-21-19

loved this book!!

so powerful, irresistible and brave. I realised how little I truly understood what apartheid meant till now. a wonderful read

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  • krispyp
  • 03-13-19

unbelievable!!! in so many ways.

loved it! such and inspirational story of not only survival, but incredible achievement in the most extreme and shocking circumstances.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-05-19

Our past as black South Africans

Brought tears to my. Well written. Brought frustration and anger in me. Yet we still bear the burden of the past.