Category Archives: South African Authors

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

After quite a long break, what with one thing and another, I will be catching up on reviews of books read for Feed My Reads. My latest review is up on Amazon.

This was not an easy read. I did a lot of research into apartheid when I wrote African Me & Satellite TV, and just reading about some of the history of some of the things that were done to black people hurts badly. But even though you cringe in shame for the insanely barbaric doings of other whites, you can never feel the shame of millions of people for being classified as sub-human because of the colour of their skin. This book does a good job of getting you a little closer to that feeling than the any of the history books I’ve read.

I grew up smack bang in the middle of apartheid. Where even little white children expected “respect” from adult black people. I always found it weird how many people suddenly had stories about their black “friends” during the struggle after having seen very few real white activists when the abuse was actually happening. But even though I saw a lot of the torment, I have never had a clue how bad it really was in the townships until I read this book.

I found myself staring at some of the sentences in utter horror and disbelief. And shame. Lots and lots of shame. The fact that Mark managed to escape and share his life with the world highlights for me the many, many others who did not escape. As I read the last few pages of this book, I wanted there to be more pages with happy words about how all of his family and friends got to leave the hell that they existed in too. But that’s not how real life works.

Even though apartheid is officially over, its effects are still alive and well. Racism is alive and well. Poverty is alive and well. You don’t get to just push a button and cancel the pain inflicted for so long overnight. You don’t get to fix things by simply saying that you never personally abused anyone.


I’m adding some editorial commentary from others for this book.

“This is a rare look inside the festering adobe shanties of Alexandra, one of South Africa’s notorious black townships. Rare because it comes from the heart of a passionate young African who grew up there.” — Chicago Tribune

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa’s most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to cross the line between black and white and win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is itself a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered “Kaffir” from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do – he escaped to tell about it.
“Powerful, intense, inspiring.” — Publishers Weekly

“An eloquent cry from the land of silent people, where blacks are assigned by whites to a permanent role of inferiority.” –John Barkham Reviews

“Compelling, chilling, authentic…an emotionally charged explanation of how it felt to grow up under South Africa’s system of legalized racism known as apartheid.” –Milwaukee Sentinel

“Despite the South African government’s creation of a virtually impenetrable border between black and white lives, this searing autobiography breaches that boundary, drawing readers into the turmoil, terror, and sad stratagems for survival in a black township.” –Foreign Affairs
“Told with relentless honesty…the reader is given a rare glimpse behind the televised protests and boycotts, of the daily fear and hunger which is devastating to both body and soul.” –The Christian Science Monitor

“A chilling, gruesome, brave memoir…Mathabane provides a straightforward, harrowing account of apartheid as it is practiced.”

Kaffir Boy won a Christopher Award for being inspiring and is on the American Library Association’s List of Outstanding Books for the College-Bound and Lifelong Learners. It is the first widely published memoir written in English by a black South African. When it first appeared in 1986, the book stunned readers in much the same way the Frederick Douglass’ 1845 slave narrative had, forcing many to rethink American support of South Africa’s white political regime.

Kaffir Boy was written in the United States, where for the first time in his life Mathabane felt free to express his thoughts and feelings without fear of imprisonment. The author-narrator, Johannes, is trapped in a terrifying world that robbed him of his childhood and forced him into the role of protector and provider for his younger siblings at an early age.

What gives Kaffir Boy its unique place in world literature is its central message that we are all human beings, and that the suffering of one individual leads to the suffering of humanity as a whole. Without bitterness or anger, Mathabane presents the facts of his life in a way that celebrates the power of family bonds and the value of a strong community.

A sought-after lecturer, Mathabane was nominated for Speaker of the Year by the National Association for Campus Activities. He continues to write about mankind’s pressing need to abolish, once and for all, racial injustice, intolerance and prejudice of any kind. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Gail, and their three children.

Also by Mark Mathabane: Kaffir Boy in America, Love in Black and White: the Triumph of Love Over Prejudice and Taboo, African Women: Three Generations, Miriam’s Song, available at Amazon.


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 Miriam’s Song, published in 2000, Mathabane 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. His second novel, It Can Happen Here, tells the story of how a political candidate’s daughter thwarts the deadly plans by white supremacists to elect Hitler’s son president of the United States so he can usher in the Forth Reich.

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, and led a fellows mission to Southern Africa.

In his latest work of non-fiction, The Lessons of Ubuntu, published by Skyhorse Publishing in 2018, Mathabane draws on his experiences with racism and racial healing in both Africa and America, where he has lived for the past thirty-seven years, to provide a timely and provocative approach to using Ubuntu, our shared humanity, to find solutions to America’s biggest and most intractable social problem: the divide between the races.

The movie based on Kaffir Boy is set to begin filming in 2020 in Alexandra, South Africa. Mark continues to lecture and be involved with his charity, the Magdalene Scholarship Fund, which pays for books, school fees and uniforms for students at Bovet School in Alexandra, South Africa. His website is

Plight of the Rhino – Springbok Publications

One of my stories, Nkoninkoni, has the honour of appearing in an anthology created for the purpose of donating proceeds to Save the Rhino International.   Writers from around the world were invited to submit stories based on different animals.  My animal was the Wildebeest, and writing about that awesome creature was an absolutely wild trip for me.  Each story is beautifully illustrated by South African artist, Helmi, and the cover art created by talented UK artist Elaine McKenna.  With the anniversary of The Plight of the Rhino anthology upon us, I decided to interview the man who made it all happen.  Meet Conrad Brand.

Firstly, please share a little about yourself, and what you do in our writing world.

Hi Jo, thanks for your kind words and the opportunity to chat to you. I was born on the West Coast of South Africa and after meeting, my now wife, we decided to temporarily move to the UK to see what life has to offer outside of South Africa. That was 14 years ago… I mostly pen short stories and flash fiction, but am currently working on my novel, due to be released at the end of 2015. I have been blessed to have some of my short stories published in the US, UK and South Africa. I always have a piece of paper and pen to hand, because life around us is full of inspiration and story ideas. I am also a Freelance journalist with my own column called Brandpunt in The South African, a newspaper for South African expats around the world. You will also find some of my published articles in the Netherlands and South Africa. In 2012 I published Blog 4 Sports a collection of short stories and humoristic sketches available on Amazon and in some bookshops in SA. At the start of 2013 Springbok Publications saw first light and that completely changed my world, again.

Where did the idea for the anthology come from?

As a South African and someone who enjoys and loves our diverse wildlife, I thought that by bringing awareness to a certain cause, we as their keepers can make a difference in their existence. The senseless killing of our rhinos for nothing more than a myth and what is essentially the same as the nails on our hands, was something I am very concerned and passionate about so I decided to have as Springbok Publications’ first published book, a collection of short stories from writers all over the world. This would have the most impact to as many different readers possible.

How did it grow from idea to fruition?

It happened quite quickly actually. From starting the company, to getting a team together and then specialists to help with this specific publication, happened within months. Everyone involved was just so fantastic, and generous, by giving their talent and time to saving this beautiful species.

Tell us a little about the authors – how did you choose them?

Soon after the team was in place we sent private invitations to authors, known to the project team. To reach a wide and diverse audience I wanted to make sure that we have writers from different countries involved. The response was overwhelming and we ended up with fantastic stories and poems by new and established writers from England, Wales, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Australia, New Zealand and of course from South Africa.

Do you feel that you’re accomplishing what you set out to do with this book as far as spotlighting the extermination of the Rhino population of the world?

I think we definitely made more people aware of the imminent extinction of the species, and that it will be on our watch. Also that we can still make a difference, and there are very positive signs worldwide. The poaching numbers are still very high, and once again this year, record breaking, but there are positive signs that the message is getting through. Our benefactor, Save the Rhino International is working very hard to put their funds in the right hands and ensuring that the countries and people involved are being educated on the devastation they are causing. One year since the release of Plight of the Rhino I was amazed to learn about the vast advances that had been made against rhino poaching and how local communities now stand together to fight the cause. BUT I have also learned how these criminals fund their lives and activities more efficiently, all from a safe distance. It is simple, if we don’t continue in our efforts the rhino population in the wild will be extinct by 2026. So please help now to make a difference! Before it’s too late!

Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to share with us?

If you’d like to follow my writing progress or want to read some of my scribbles, please visit my website at Website. BUT, I would rather urge you to join me and Springbok Publications to stand up and make a difference in the fight for the rhino. Can you imagine one day, in less than 20 years’ time, to read in the newspaper that the last wild rhino had been shot today? Never will they be seen in the wild again and they would be lost forever. Like the rest of the animals already extinct. Buy your copy of Plight of the Rhino today – not only will you have a lovely read for your holidays, but you will have access to the facts and info of 22 different wildlife animals, all unique and special in their own way. You never know, you might actually learn something, like I did whilst putting this collection together. One thing IS for sure, you will be helping us to bring awareness to the Plight of the Rhino in the wild.

Plight of the Rhino has been discounted for its Birthday and the rest of December. All links offer 25% off the printed copy and 50% off the electronic version. Cover for Promo

Cover Artwork ELAINE MCKENNA Copyright Elaine McKenna


Amazon UK


To learn more about the fantastic work Save the Rhino International does and where your contribution is going, please visit their website at Save the Rhino International. For more information and news please visit Springbok Publications or follow us on Facebook. gorilla Gorilla by HELMI Copyright Helmi LION Lion by HELMI Copyright Helmi

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Involution: An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God by Philippa Rees

This book has been called ‘…a brilliant and profoundly erudite epic…a heroic intellectual tour de force…’ (by David Lorimer, the Director of the Scientific and Medical Network) and both ‘brave…and totally insightful’ (by Ervin Laszlo) but the book defies description; it breaks all the rules and is unlike any other. It is so comprehensive in its sweep, original in its writing, and its synthesis, that to isolate any aspect is to misrepresent all the others.

Two characters, Reason and Soul, undertake a light-hearted poetic journey through the chronology of Western scientific thought to expose a bold hypothesis— that science has been guided by the gradual and accelerating recovery of memory. That recovery has been through the inspired maverick genius and it moves backwards through time; from man’s emergence, (at one with the natural world), through the increasingly separate disciplines to the holistic origins; the birth of stars and the start of time. This incremental excavation and transfer of memory to intellect implies the pre-human encoding of consciousness in the very structure of matter, and all organic life.

It is the sweep of history that exposes this reversal of time: It requires all the disciplines of science, all the epochs of thought, and only poetic economy could convey this accompanying purposeful complement to the Darwinian random and accidental. It is the wood and not the trees that the work surveys from the height of a poetic balloon. Yet, paradoxically, the collective journey has been lit by individuals, unique in their contributions to the field that claims only ‘objective’ repeatable and validated truth. The same pattern is mirrored in the history of painting and the structure of musical composition. Genius differs only in the languages of expression.

In nine Cantos the two companions travel through pre-human involution, and early man’s emergence on the Serengeti to the recorded civilisations of Greece, Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, into the Enlightenment and finally Modernism when the success of science completely obscures half of the story, the story of involution. Science’s external domination has reproduced the web of consciousness in the internet, and its tools are the bones of its journey, but the life of the spirit has withered through science’s insistence on objectivity, and its neglect of its own subjective origins. Mystical experience is perhaps the most attested and agreed upon encounter, across climes and times, differing only in the words chosen to clothe it.

But there is more to it than merely science; for science is a language through which to follow a deeper journey, Man’s collective journey inwards, to the nature of himself: which is why the scientific signposts are appropriately confined to end-notes to leave the poetic journey un-encumbered. They take no scientific knowledge for granted: they are not essential to the poetic narrative but instead caulk the ship of science in which we travel.

The scientific serpent of DNA, the most likely candidate for memory, ends with a soliloquy, an invitation to re-acquaintance with love, for episodes of love through contemplation and self-forgetting has informed science all along.

The work restores the spiritual, and finds it within the process of mystical science. The perennial philosophy is newly validated in twentieth century language.

By adding involution to evolution, mind and matter become two sides of a single coin, only perceived as distinct through the collective intellect’s division from its deeper self, from consciousness, from experience, from rapture and understanding. The co creation of God and the universe is what this book restores and is about.

Editorial Reviews

Philippa Rees wrote a book that is a rarity: it is on a controversial, actually hair- and eye-brow-raising subject, and it is totally sincere. And totally insightful. If you the reader are as brave as this author, you are in for a fantastic ride. Getting close to science as well as to God at the same time. That’s no mean feat. Enjoy the ride – and the light! (Dr. Ervin Laszlo)

Philippa Rees

Philippa Rees

The lives distilled in the work of Philippa have been as manifold as the proverbial cat. But all have fed into the mix. Born in South Africa to a family on both sides of the Boer war divide (half fighting the other half) her childhood was equally extreme. As an only child of a single mother she was imprisoned in harsh boarding schools, but holidays were spent on her horse riding the mountains of Lesotho, or on safaris with a beloved grandfather inspecting African schools in the remotest areas of Botswana, shooting for the pot and camping under the stars.

In the background of solitary African existence there were always books, and a family that valued them: Her grandmother was a Barrett, related to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and her great great aunt corresponded with George Eliot, whose step sons she befriended in tragic circumstances. So writing and literature were the ways to make sense of experience.

Choices were always difficult because everything was equally interesting: university involved sampling five faculties before deciding on zoology and psychology. Early marriage to a marine biologist took her to an island off the Mozambique coast, scavenging on the mud flats for abundant sea food, but post only by occasional fishing boat. Her first book ‘Dryads and Drinking Water’ was set in Mozambique at the start of the civil war. Later life took her first to Florida and then to the Max Planck Institute in Bavaria where she lived in an eleventh century saw mill on the banks of a lake with an unrepentant Nazi landlady, while her husband worked with Konrad Lorenz and the exciting school of animal behaviour that surrounded him.

Following some profound spiritual experiences Philippa divorced and came to England with two small daughters, where she converted some barns as a music centre, and taught courses on ‘Saints and Scientists’ at Bristol University. But writing always came first, and none of it slotted into a Dewey Index easily. Her poetic novella ‘A Shadow in Yucatan’ is an evocation of the atmosphere of the sixties, set in Florida. A new ‘magnum opus’, a poetic history of Western thought, ‘Involution’ is due to be published in March 2013. After that she hopes to publish her short stories revealing the gulf between New and Old World attitudes and a novel based upon her personal experiences. She has four daughters and lives in Somerset.

Listen to a fascinating interview with Philippa Rees here.

The Book of Forgiving – Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu – NEW RELEASE

Desmond Mpilo Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and was only the second black person ever to receive it. In 1986 he was elected archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position in the Anglican Church in South Africa. In 1994, after the end of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela, Tutu was appointed as chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate apartheid-era crimes. His policy of forgiveness and reconciliation has become an international example of conflict resolution, and a trusted method of postconflict reconstruction. He is currently the chair of The Elders, where he gives vocal defense of human rights and campaigns for the oppressed.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chair of The Elders, and Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, offer a manual on the art of forgiveness—helping us to realize that we are all capable of healing and transformation.
Tutu’s role as the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission taught him much about forgiveness. If you asked anyone what they thought was going to happen to South Africa after apartheid, almost universally it was predicted that the country would be devastated by a comprehensive bloodbath. Yet, instead of revenge and retribution, this new nation chose to tread the difficult path of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Each of us has a deep need to forgive and to be forgiven. After much reflection on the process of forgiveness, Tutu has seen that there are four important steps to healing: Admitting the wrong and acknowledging the harm; Telling one’s story and witnessing the anguish; Asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness; and renewing or releasing the relationship. Forgiveness is hard work. Sometimes it even feels like an impossible task. But it is only through walking this fourfold path that Tutu says we can free ourselves of the endless and unyielding cycle of pain and retribution. The Book of Forgiving is both a touchstone and a tool, offering Tutu’s wise advice and showing the way to experience forgiveness. Ultimately, forgiving is the only means we have to heal ourselves and our aching world.

Circles in a Forest – Dalene Matthee

Dalene Matthee, author of 13 books, is best known for her four “Forest books” on the Knysna Forest: Circles in a Forest, Fiela’s Child, The Mulberry Forest and Dreamforest.

Dalene was born in Riversdale in the Southern Cape, South Africa, in 1938. She began her writing career with children’s stories and short stories before taking on her first novel after a hiking trip through the Outeniqua hiking trail around Knysna. Her curiosity led to a journey through the stories and studies of these indigenous forests. In the end, she gathered enough material for four books.

Each book is underpinned by thorough research. Her books have been translated into 14 languages, and some of her books have been used as prescribed books in schools for over 20 years. Dalene has received various awards, including the ATKV Prose Award (4 times), the Southern African Institute of Forestry Award (twice), the Swiss Stab Award and the Department of Arts and Culture’s SA Literary Award (posthumously). She is the only South African author of whom over 1 million Afrikaans books have been sold.

She died in 20 February 2005 and a memorial has been erected for her in the Knysna Forest. More information available at


A Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013


Nicua Shamira

Just released by inspiring South African author and poet – a must have!