Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa Critical Essays

Mark Mathabane

Critical Overview

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Alexandra, South Africa, where Mathabane was born and raised Published by Gale Cengage

Initial reviews of Kaffir Boy in the spring of 1986 were mixed. New York Times Book Review critic Lillian Thomas appeared either unable or unwilling to grasp the significance of the book, suggesting that it should have been written in a different way and questioning why the author was no longer living in South Africa. Two other critics, whose reviews appeared in the same month as Thomas's, praised the uniqueness and power of the book. Both Charles R. Larson in the Washington Post Book World and Diane Manuel in the Chicago Tribune Book World commented on its uniqueness as an autobiography written in English by a black native who had actually lived in an apartheid-ruled South African ghetto. Larson believed that Kaffir Boy "might acquire the same status that Richard Wright's Black Boy or Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land had for earlier American readers." For him, Kaffir Boy was "in every way as important and as exciting a book." Manuel called it a "rare" book. "What television newscasts did to expose the horrors of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, books like Kaffir Boy may well do for the horrors of apartheid in the 1980s," she said.

Despite mixed reviews, just a few months after Kaffir Boy's initial publication, Readers' Digest Condensed Books purchased the condensation rights and New...

(The entire section is 497 words.)