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Banned Book Review: Kaffir Boy

November 30, 2005

31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Reason: a 12th grader complained to his mother about a sequence where men asked starving boys to exchange sex for food.

Kaffir Boy is the story of Mark Mathabane, a black South African tennis player who grew up during apartheid.  If you’ve never heard of Mark Mathabane the tennis player before, it’s because despite the fact that it was tennis that allowed him to escape South Africa, it was his story of suffering that allowed him to succeed in America.  The book starts off a little slow, but quickly picks up speed.  Mathabane describes the the difficulties of life as a young black boy in South Africa in a no holds barred style of writing that leaves little to the imagination.  His accounts of gang murders, riots, child prostitution, and the squalid conditions will cause you to wonder how anyone could have allowed such things to go on.  The child prostitution scene is a little disturbing, but no more so than the description of the gang attack in which the victim was gutted.  In both situations the character makes the right choice and comes out with a renewed determination for a better life.

Check out Mark Mathabane’s criticisms of his book being banned here and here.

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