April 16: Our Common Humanity
From his website:
Mark Mathabane touched the hearts of millions with his sensational autobiography, Kaffir Boy. Telling the true story of his coming of age under apartheid in South Africa, the book won a prestigious Christopher Award, rose to No. 3 on The New York Times bestsellers list and to No. 1 on the Washington Post bestsellers list, and was translated into several languages. Today, the book is used in classrooms across the U.S. and is on the American Library Association's List of "Outstanding Books for the College-Bound."
Born of destitute parents whose $10-a-week wage could not pay the rent for their shack or put food on the table, Mathabane spent the first 18 years of his life as the eldest of seven children in a one-square-mile ghetto that was home to more than 200,000 blacks.
A childhood of devastating poverty, terrifying police raids and relentless humiliation drove him to the brink of suicide at age ten. A love of learning and books and his dreams of tennis stardom, inspired by Arthur Ashe, carried him from despair, hate and anger to possibility and hope. His illiterate mother believed that education was the only way out of the ghetto. Her courage and sacrifice turned Mathabane's life around.
Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered "Kaffir" from the mean streets of Alexandra was supposed to do -- he escaped to tell about it. Tennis was Mathabane's passport to freedom. In 1978, with the help of 1972 Wimbledon champion Stan Smith, Mathabane left South Africa to attend an American university on scholarship. In 1983 Mathabane graduated cum laude with a degree in Economics from Dowling College in Oakdale, New York, where he was the first black editor of the college newspaper.
After studies at the Poynter Media Institute and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Mathabane completed the manuscript of Kaffir Boy and went on to write several more books. He has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Today," CNN, NPR, "The Charlie Rose Show," "Larry King," and numerous other TV and radio programs across the country. His provocative articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today. He has been featured in Time, Newsweek and People magazines. A sought-after lecturer, he was nominated for Speaker of the Year by the National Association for Campus Activities.
In 1989, Kaffir Boy in America, which continues the story of Kaffir Boy, was published by Scribner's and became a national bestseller following Mathabane's second appearance on Oprah. In 1992, Love in Black and White, a non-fiction book about interracial relationships and race relations in America, co-authored by his wife, Gail, was published by HarperCollins. In 1994, Mathabane's fourth book appeared -- African Women: Three Generations, which describes the struggles, relationships and triumphs of three South African women who were heroines in Kaffir Boy -- his grandmother, mother and sister Florah.
In September 1997, Mark completed a one-year assignment as a White House Fellow at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., where he helped implement several education initiatives.
His latest work of non-fiction, Miriam's Song, published by Simon & Schuster in 2000, tells the true story of his sister Miriam's coming of age during the turmoil and violence that preceded the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela's election. His first work of fiction, Ubuntu, is a thriller set against the politically and racially tense backdrop of post-apartheid South Africa.