Perhaps it was to be expected, but life for Mathabane in America is just not as dramatic nor as riveting as it was in...

READ REVIEW

KAFFIR BOY IN AMERICA: An Encounter with Apartheid

Perhaps it was to be expected, but life for Mathabane in America is just not as dramatic nor as riveting as it was in apartheid South Africa (Kaffir Boy, 1986). And though Mathabane's observations on American life may be just, they are nonetheless pretty pedestrian. A Dickens or a Naipaul he is not. But for those who want to know what happened next, Mathabane's account of how he left South Africa and came to America to take tip a tennis scholarship at a small southern college will be welcome. Believing America to be the promised land where racism was dead and equality flourished, Mathabane found the reality to be somewhat different. He had difficulties adjusting to a vastly different educational system; his tennis was not considered good enough; he had to transfer to a number of colleges as his grants ran out; and racial prejudice, both black and white, was pervasive. And while the tennis player Stan Miller continued to be a generous friend and supporter, Mathabane had to struggle to supplement his college expenses, acquire appropriate visas, and help his family back in South Africa, where his father was an alcoholic and unemployed, his mother insane, and his siblings nearly destitute. But Mathabane is a survivor, determined and resourceful. He had already begun writing Kaffir Boy before graduation, and soon agents and publishers were expressing interest. Favorable reviews and an appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show helped out the book on best-seller lists. With Oprah's help, his family came to visit, and he married his American sweetheart, Gail. Such triumph is the stuff of many stories, true or otherwise, but Mathabane's telling tends to be lifeless, a recitation of events and received opinions rather than a vivid response to a new land and a new society. But then it wouldn't be easy to repeat the searing passion of his first book. Not yet.

Pub Date: June 1, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1989