Monday, July 9, 2007

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Kaffir is a derogatory term in South Africa roughly equivalent to... you know. I mean you know, lots of black rappers use it in songs to refer somewhat affectionately to other black people. Shit, here. But that's how Mark Mathabane grew up, as a "Kaffir" Johannesburg's biggest slum, Alexandra. His childhood, clothed in rags and terrorized by constant police raids, sounds more like something out of Elie Wiesel's memoirs than Harriet Tubman's. Maybe I can't make a comparison like that, but either way Apartheid was more appalling than I thought.

Obviously he makes it out. I don't think I'm giving away anything there. If you couldn't figure that out, this book might be a little advanced for you. But the way he gets out was surprising. His self taught English helped, but that wasn't the reason he made it, nor his perfect school record. It was Aurthur Ashe's footsteps that led him to America.

The ending is abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying, but Mathabane's story of growing up flushes out the racial tensions that make the book worth reading. He shows how white Afrikaners feared the natives, how blacks from the city were different than those in the tribal reserves, why some blacks hated other blacks, and pretty much every other dynamic you can think of. If you know nothing about black South Africa this is a perfect starting point.

4 comments:

Carlton said...

FYI: Rappers also use the word "boo" a lot when referring to their girlfriends/bitches/baby's mommas.
They also enjoy jewelry.

Nathan said...

Join us next week for more of Krazy Karlton's Rapper Faktz!

Nihil Novum said...

This sounds interesting.

Alyson said...

I thought rappers called their girlfriends "nappy-headed hos?" Oh wait, maybe that was someone else. I'm getting all confused. Well, at any rate, I DO know that rappers hate George Bush, and if you don't vote (assumingly for someone other than George Bush), then the rappers will kill you. That's why I vote.