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Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy describes the first 18 years of Mark Mathabane's life, up to the time when he leaves his family to catch a plane bound for the United States. He is headed for Limestone College in South Carolina, having secured a tennis scholarship. That was 1978. What has happened to him since then? Mathabane initially had a difficult time adjusting to life in the United States. His life experiences were radically different from those of middle-class American students. In addition, he found that he had to catch up academically. He was ostracized by many fellow students because he was serious about his studies and not interested in drinking, drugs, or parties. He was shocked to find that blacks and whites in America generally remained apart, despite the lack of segregation laws. He changed colleges several times and did poorly in college tennis. After Mathabane lost his tennis scholarship, Stan Smith continued to support him through his turbulent college years. Mathabane finally graduated from Dowling College in New York in 1983, and during his last semester there, he began writing Kaffir Boy, which was published in 1986. His success as a writer and lecturer enabled him to help support his family in South Africa and to pay for the education of his brother and sisters. His grandmother, mother, brother, and three of his sisters came to the United States in 1987 to attend his wedding and appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." His father as well as his mother visited in 1990 after the Mathabanes had their first child. By then, Mathabane's father had stopped drinking and gambling and had reformed his life.

Mathabane has continued to write and publish other books about his life and his family. The opening chapters of these books can be read online at www.mathabane.com. Today, he, his wife, and three children live in Portland, Oregon. In 1997, Mathabane was one of eighteen people to win a White House education fellowship. On the fellowship, he returned to South Africa for the first time to observe the changes since apartheid had ended.