Wow this is an eye opening book Mark Mathabane writes of his life as a Black boy in South Africa during Apartheid I had no idea what went on during that era and sadly some of what went on then, is probably still happening now i found this book listed on a list of books that people want to banwhich means that I should probably read them After reading it, I m not sure why anyone would want to ban it I think everyone should read it It is HISTORY and a reality that perhaps we don t want to face, but should.
It is always hard to write a fair review about a book where you ve fallen out with the protagonist, who, by the end of the book, I found mildly irritating and preachy I am in two minds about this book which on the one hand I found insightful and revealing, but on the other, tediously introspective and lacking in realism That s not to say that I don t buy into the representation of SA that Mathabane puts forward, it is simply that the book is written, intentionally or otherwise, in a childish manner, by which I mean that Mathabane focuses solely on his subjective experience of everything, regardless of whether or not the reader would be interested in hearing about the feelings of those around him For example, Mathabane describes his childhood as the eldest son in a family of two boys and five girls, however there is barely any description of times spent together with his siblings or of what his siblings get up to.
Further, there were few descriptions of the surrounding environment The first half of the book was slightly better in this respect, while Mathabane was a child, but once he becomes a youth and tennis takes over, there is hardly any description at all of his home, despite the fact that it was now become occupied with seven children Mathabane s lack of attention to descriptive details is however not reflected in his descriptions of conversations, which he appears to recall word for word, paragraph after paragraph This made me slightly suspicious about the veracity of what he claims people said as I was left with the impression that Mathabane was recalling the conversations in a way that he wanted to remember them, rather than necessarily being a true summary of what was said I felt this in particular when he described conversations with his mother.
There is no doubting at all that a book like this is so important in teaching us about the harsh reality of life in SA townships, and one cannot help but admire Mathabane s strength and determination in escaping this way of life But, over 20 years later, post apartheid, I can t help wondering what the book achieved, given that life in Alex and many townships in SA has hardly moved on since.
This is a stark autobiography of a young boy growing up in a ghetto in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s and 70s The narrative vividly describes apartheid and the unbearable conditions its laws inflicted on blacks racism, extreme poverty, constant hunger, brutality, constant fear and intimidation.
Matabane s teenage dream to get out of the ghetto faced almost impossible odds In addition to the conditions under apartheid, he also had to contend with his father s violent personality, his tribal heritage, and pressures from his peers Through a series of circumstances, the unwavering support of his mother and grandmother, his tenacity and determination, and no small degree of luck, I found it almost unbelievable the obstacles he overcame.
Throughout the book, the one theme that resounded with me was the strength shown by Matabane s mother as she faced unspeakable conditions She had the vision that education was the only way for her children to improve their circumstances, and she did everything in her power to get them into school and keep them there Even though she was herself uneducated, had extremely limited financial resources, seven children to care for and feed, and a violent husband who drank and gambled his small wages away, education was always her priority I wonder what Mathabane s story would have been had his mother not been such a strong positive influence in his life.