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

by Mark Mathabane

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Discussion Topic

Appropriate age for studying or reading "Kaffir Boy"

Summary:

The appropriate age for studying or reading Kaffir Boy is typically high school level, around ages 14-18. The book contains mature themes and graphic descriptions of violence and apartheid, making it more suitable for older students who can critically engage with its complex subjects.

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What is the appropriate age for studying the book "Kaffir Boy"?

It is important to consider the amount of background knowledge that a student of a given age has.  "Night" could be read by fairly young students, but students without knowledge of the Holocaust would miss out.

If the History department at a given school teaches an Apartheid unit, Kaffir Boy should definitely be taught in the same year.  I find that kids without a pretty good knowledge of Apartheid get frustrated with textual elements that they don't understand.

Of course, the English teacher can always give historical background (I do, and love doing it)!  The teacher should consider the ability of his/her students to understand the complex ways in which Apartheid legislation actually affected individuals.

A thought should be given to graphic content, especially the "prostitution scene".  I decide whether or not to teach the book to a given class by deciding if the students can handle this question (in terms of maturity and analysis):

Mathabane notes that child prostitution was a known practice in the townships.  If parents like Johannes' know about it, why aren't they keeping a closer eye on their children?  Why aren't they getting together with other parents to prevent it?

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What is the appropriate age for studying the book "Kaffir Boy"?

"Kaffir Boy" is writen on the 7th grade level.  Who should read it and who should study it would greatly depend on how well a student reads, how mature the student is and how active the teacher and parents are in the analysis of the book.  I might also add a great deal depends on what area of the country one lives.  In a small rural town where people are over all more conserevitive, the teacher might be better off not to think about teaching this book until the Jr. or Sr. year in high school because of the uproar parents might create in lower grades.  On the other hand, if it is a large school system, especially in the Northeast, a school system might even have this in their Jr. High school library.  The words, "anus," and "penis" will send some student's and parents through the roof, while others can accept the fact that for their children to know what is going on in the world, their children might have to hear some biological terms.

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What is the appropriate age for reading Kaffir Boy?

There are classes at my high school that read this book. They make sure to give the appropriate background and historical context of the novel, such as the history of Apartheid and the class and race system that it established. The book does require a higher level of maturity, but it has such impact that even less mature students have gotten over initial squeamishness. If you are looking to use this in a classroom setting, then high school would be appropriate. If you are looking for reading material for an individual, then it may be appropriate for a mature middle schooler.

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What is the appropriate age for reading Kaffir Boy?

I'm not sure if there is ever an appropriate age for any novel: it really depends on the reader. Some readers are ready for more mature novels at an early age. However, that said, because of the strong themes in this novel, including abuse and racial tension, before I gave this book to anyone, I would make sure that they were mature enough to understand/handle it.

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