Oct. 13, 1994
Vol. 14, No. 4

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    Mark Mathabane to visit as Kovler Fellow

    Author of Kaffir Boy to present lecture Tuesday, Oct. 25 Mark Mathabane, author of the best-selling books Kaffir Boy and Kaffir Boy in America, will visit the University on Tuesday, Oct. 25, and Wednesday, Oct. 26, as a Marjorie Kovler Fellow.

    While at the University, Mathabane will attend classes and meet informally with students and faculty. He will also deliver a lecture, "Race Relations in South Africa and the United States Compared: A Personal Perspective," at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, in the third-floor lecture hall of Swift. Admission is free.

    Mathabane was born in the ghetto of Alexandra in Johannesburg, South Africa. The eldest of seven children -- and the first member of his family to have any formal education -- Mathabane escaped from apartheid in 1978 at age 18 when Stan Smith, the American tennis professional and former Wimbledon champion, arranged for Mathabane to study on a tennis scholarship at an American college.

    In 1984, Mathabane graduated with honors from Dowling College in New York. He then briefly attended the Columbia University School of Journalism before devoting himself full time to writing. His numerous book reviews and his many articles about apartheid, education and race relations have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report, among other publications.

    Mathabane's Kaffir Boy (1986) and its sequel, Kaffir Boy in America (1989), take their titles from a derogatory term used by some whites against blacks in South Africa. In his books, Mathabane recalls various experiences, including scenes from his childhood in which he dodges police raids, eats leeches to keep from starving and lives in a 15-foot-by-15-foot rat-infested home with the rest of his family. The books also describe how Mathabane eventually overcame these conditions, and they detail his experiences in America.

    Kaffir Boy reached the top of the best-seller lists of the New York Times and the Washington Post and has been translated into several languages. The Chicago Tribune called it "a rare look inside the festering adobe shanties of Alexandra" and the New York Times called it "an inspiring account of a young man's self-realization . . . It provides a better understanding of South Africa, of America -- and of being human."

    Mathabane and his wife, Gail Mathabane, are the co-authors of Love in Black & White (1992), which describes their personal experiences as an interracial couple in America. His latest book, African Women: Three Generations (1994), describes the struggles, relationships and triumphs of three South African women who were heroines in Kaffir Boy -- Mathabane's grandmother, his mother and his sister Florah.

    The Marjorie Kovler Visiting Fellows program is designed to encourage interaction between students at Chicago and prominent individuals in the arts and public affairs.