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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 179

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa is a 1986 memoir by South African writer Mark Mathabane. It tells of his early childhood and youth in South Africa during the apartheid era.

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As an autobiographical work, the principal character and protagonist in the story is Mathabane himself. Mathabane attends school despite his family's poverty and his own reluctance. He finds academic success, earning a scholarship to secondary education and, ultimately, an athletic scholarship to Limestone College in the United States.

Mathabane's mother and grandmother—known to him as Mama and Granny, respectively—are important influences on his life and are the guiding force which initially enabled him to pursue schooling.

Mathabane's father is another important character in the story. His whose own life and priorities serve as a juxtaposition to Mathabane's and their relationship is, at times, strained.

Mark Mathabane is a standout tennis player, and several of the characters in his life story serve as inspiration for his athletic success. They include Scaramouche, Wilfred Horn, and the American Stan Smith.

Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 166

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa is an autobiography of Mark Mathbane’s life. As such, the characters in this book are all real people who influenced his life.

Mathbane’s mother. Mathabane first starts school because his mother forces him. He is at first resistant but grows to enjoy it. His mother struggles to keep up with school fees; however, Mathabane continues to excel.

Mathabane’s grandmother. His grandmother works for the Smith’s and develops this connection.

The Smiths. This is a white family who hires Mathabane’s grandmother. They introduce him to new hobbies and interests. The family sends his grandmother home with books and tennis equipment.

Wilfred Horn. He is a wealthy tennis enthusiast who takes great interest in Mathabane’s tennis capabilities.

Stan Smith. He is a world renowned tennis player who trains Mathabane. He pays for his competition fees and helps him attain a scholarship in the United States.

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