In This Review

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
By Mark Mathabane
352 pp, Macmillan, 1986
Purchase

Despite the South African government's creation of a virtually impenetrable border between black and white lives, this searing autobiography breaches that boundary, drawing readers into the turmoil, terror and sad stratagems for survival in a black township. Now a college graduate living in the United States, the author looks back to his childhood-at midnight police raids that sent his mother fleeing through back-alley outhouses and his father crawling to bribe the police; at the squalor and hunger of domestic life lived at the shifting margins of legality; at the absolute insecurity of a world where changing rules serve to heighten the harassment integral to control. Humanity and strength, often stunted and warped, also surprisingly grow straight up through the cracks, as in the author's own quest for education and for prowess at the white sport of tennis-and in his eloquence and pride.